Mount Saint Mary College confirms December ransomware attack

Mount Saint Mary College – a liberal arts college in New York – confirmed it experienced a ransomware attack in December after a cybercrime group publicly shared details about the incident this week.

The Vice Society ransomware gang, a group known for dozens of attacks on K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities, claimed to have attacked the school in a post on its leak site that was first highlighted by cybersecurity expert Dominic Alvieri on Wednesday. 

When asked for comment, a Mount Saint Mary College representative directed The Record to a recently released statement where the school says it detected and stopped a cyberattack on December 20, 2022.

The attackers were able to access and disable some of the school’s systems, and officials disconnected part of the network that were affected before hiring cybersecurity specialists to help with the response. 

“Upon learning of the incident, the college quickly notified law enforcement, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The college received a ransom demand from the group responsible and did not comply, following recommendations from the FBI,” the school said. 

“In the days and weeks after the incident, Mount teams worked around the clock to bolster the college’s network security. These teams rebuilt the impacted systems and strengthened security protocols on campus, with the intent of minimizing any disruptions to normal operations. Winter interim classes resumed after a 48-hour delay, and the spring semester began on-time on January 23. All classes are continuing as scheduled.”

School officials said they have stayed in contact with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement agencies anticipating that the group behind the attack would publish the stolen data. 

They were informed of Vice Society’s dark web post on Thursday and are now working with experts to “assess the findings and take the appropriate next steps.”

The school said it has already sent letters to those affected that their personal information may have been accessed – including anyone who has been a student or worked at the college in the last ten years.

Those affected have been offered free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for an undisclosed amount of time. 

They have also set up a call center for those in need of more information. 

The school has about 2,500 current undergrad and postgrad students. 

Vice Society has drawn scrutiny from law enforcement agencies around the world for its constant attacks on educational institutions. 

Three weeks ago it took credit for an attack on one of Germany’s largest universities and on Cincinnati State College. Vice Society claims to have attacked the School District of Elmbrook in Wisconsin, Sierra College in California, Linn-Mar School District in Iowa, and Grand Valley State University in Michigan. 

It drew national headlines in the U.S. for a devastating attack on the largest school district in Los Angeles in September.

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Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig

is a Breaking News Reporter at Recorded Future News. Jonathan has worked across the globe as a journalist since 2014. Before moving back to New York City, he worked for news outlets in South Africa, Jordan and Cambodia. He previously covered cybersecurity at ZDNet and TechRepublic.