January 11, 2022

TBI assists after Pellissippi state computer network goes down as a result of suspected ransomware attack

The college said on Tuesday it was working with law enforcement and forensic computer experts to respond to the attack.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – UPDATE (12/8/21): The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said agents in its technical services unit were providing assistance after an apparent ransomware attack brought down the Pellissippi State Community College network system.

The college said it was working with external computer forensics and law enforcement experts to investigate and resolve the outage, but did not provide specific details on the nature of the attack, including whether any data on the network may be compromised or deleted. , which is usually how criminals demand a ransom in these types of attacks.

As finals week rolled around, students at Pellissippi State Community College ran into trouble.

“I did most of my essay. It was 11:59 am I couldn’t submit it,” said Rowen Wilkinson, a dual-enrollment student. “I ended up emailing my teacher last night with the essay and everything on my personal email.”

He also brought a hard copy to class just in case. Other students received exams by email.

“After all of this ransomware thing happened, none of my finals were super impacted,” Kendell Church said. “They just worked via email and not a Brightspace quiz.”

Brightspace is the program that PSCC students typically use to access their classes and correspond with their professors.

Charlie Hamilton took most of his exams on paper rather than online.

“We took them mostly in person,” Hamilton said. “Those who were online, we picked up in person at the testing center.”

Hamilton said they are regularly updated by the Tennessee Board of Regents, but is concerned if his information has been compromised.

“That’s the only concern, it’s the information behind it,” he said. “You never know who is behind a cyber attack or ransomware or anything like that.”

Rowen Wilkinson said he was not so worried.

“I don’t have my credit card or anything on the Pellissippi page,” he said. “They could take my email or something and I could get more spam.”

The college reported Monday morning that it was experiencing “certain network problems” affecting IT operations. All network connections on all campuses were down, according to the college.

On Tuesday, he said he determined that the outage appeared to be due to a ransomware attack, a type of malware that encrypts and locks down access to network systems before malicious actors demand some form of ransom to restore the system. access. Typically, these attacks set a deadline and threaten to steal or erase data stored on compromised networks if the ransom is not paid, but the state of Pellissippi has yet to say whether it was. the case with this attack.

“The College is currently on top of the business and is working to get its IT systems up and running as soon as possible,” the College said.

Pellissippi state said it is now working with computer forensics and law enforcement experts. The Tennessee Board of Regents said the college was run by the state’s cyber policy, saying the forensic practice that was hired was costing around $ 450 an hour with a cap of up to $ 500. 000 dollars in terms of time and materials.

TBI said it was not yet sure how much the response would cost.

The college posted an update Tuesday on its website for students and faculty:

“We are still working on the failure of network systems. Teachers and students should use email inside Brightspace to communicate. If you cannot access Brightspace with the alternate link, call HelpDesk at 865-694-6537 to help you access Brightspace.

Not all users have access to Mail or Teams, and if you do, you may lose access. You can use email or Teams for secure communication if you’re already signed in, but don’t share or move files.

Virtual Student Services will be open today to answer your questions. See the Zoom link above. The start is still set for 7 p.m. Friday at the Thompson-Boling Arena. “

The disruption came as the college prepared for the start of this week.

On Monday, staff had to disconnect computers and turn off WiFi.



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