The University of Calgary has become the latest victim in a recent string of ransomware attacks. According to a statement released Wednesday morning, University computer systems were affected for 10 days while the IT team worked to remedy the issue. Ultimately, the University paid around $ 16,000 ($ 20,000 Canadian) to recover its data, with no guarantee that it was even possible to restore it.
“Ransomware attacks and the payment of ransoms are becoming increasingly common around the world,” the University’s VP of Finance and Services Linda Dalgetty wrote in her statement. “The university is now in the process of assessing and evaluating the decryption keys. The actual process of decryption is time-consuming and must be performed with care. It is important to note that decryption keys do not automatically restore all systems or guarantee the recovery of all data. A great deal of work is still required by IT to ensure all affected systems are operational again, and this process will take time.”
The University also says it is working with Calgary Police to investigate the hack, although other such investigations have come up empty handed in the past. Regarding the payment, Dalgetty told the Globe and Mail, “We are conducting world class research daily and we don’t know what we don’t know in terms of who’s been impacted and the last thing we want to do is lose someone’s life’s work.” (That’s work like building neurochips out of silicon and human brain cells, or creating one-handed iPhone gestures, by the way.)
In another recent case, Kansas Heart Hospital paid “a small amount” in ransom money, only to have the hacker turn around and ask for even more cash. In May, a ransomware attack on the United States Congress was thankfully averted. And on one, slightly reassuring note and the hackers behind the original “uncrackable” TeslaCrypt ransomware virus released the keys that would allow anyone affected to retrieve their data.