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Maricopa Community Colleges notifies FBI about cyberattack

Maricopa Community Colleges
Posted at 3:17 PM, Mar 23, 2021

School officials with the Maricopa County Community College District have notified the FBI after a cyberattack impacted their network.

Last week, MCCCD announced that suspicious activity was found on their network.

In a public update on their website, MCCCD wrote on Monday, “MCCCD had a plan in place to immediately engage experts to help us navigate any network threat, and we continue to work together through this recovery process.”

School officials tell ABC15 that they don’t have an exact timeline for when their network will be restored. In an email on Tuesday, a spokesperson wrote, “We continue to make restoration progress each day. System security remains a priority and we are in the process of implementing new security protocols to further enhance our defenses. We do not yet have a timeline for complete restoration but will continue to post regular updates to our website at www.maricopa.edu/system-status."

School officials have not said what type of cyberattack hit their network, but they say at this time there is no evidence of personal information like social security numbers, or financial data that has been obtained.

On Tuesday, the FBI hosted a press conference about cybersecurity and ransomware to help individuals and businesses build a digital defense against ransomware.

“Scammers will often send ransomware through email phishing campaigns. You can unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by opening an email attachment, clicking an ad, following a link or even visiting a website that's embedded with malware,” a press release stated.

A new report by the FBI found that internet crime complaints went up in 2020 by 69.4%.

“The 2020 Internet Crime Report includes information from 791,790 complaints of suspected internet crime—an increase of more than 300,000 complaints from 2019—and reported losses exceeding $4.2 billion,” the report said.

The FBI encourages businesses and individuals to file a complaint if they are hit by any cyber crimes.

Tips to protect yourself from ransomware attacks, according to the FBI:

  • Educate yourself, and, for companies, your employees. Learn how to spot and avoid phishing lures.
  • Use multi-factor authentication where possible
  • Disable unused remote access/RDP ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs
  • Make sure you are backing up your data often and that you are backing it up to an off-line source. Ransomware attacks can move quickly— infecting any connected device or on-line storage account. Your back-ups must be segregated and off-line from normal operations.
  • Make sure that all devices on your network are using the most current and patched versions of operating systems and applications.
  • Make sure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and run regular scans.
  • Use a pop-up blocker. If you get a pop-up or other message that says you are infected, disconnect the device from the Internet and your network immediately to try to prevent the spread.
  • Filter out e-mails with .exe attachments and set your computer to show hidden file extensions. Ransomware is often delivered as a file with more than one file extension such as example.pdf.exe.
  • Have strong passwords and don’t use the same passwords for everything.
  • Don’t open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the e-mail and go to the organization’s website directly.

You can file a complaint at the FBI Phoenix office at (623)466-1999 or online by clicking here.