How Ransomware Took Down a Country and a College in One Week

Costa Rica is in a state of emergency and a 157-year-old college is closing forever, and it's all because of ransomware.
Conor Cawley

In the last few days, ransomware attacks have been responsible for completely shutting down a college in Illinois and sending Costa Rica into a state of emergency, and that's only two of them.

If you haven't seen ransomware in the news over the last few years, you must not watch the news, as the cybercrime has become quite prevalent for hackers around the world. From hospitals to small businesses, these attacks steal and encrypt important data until you can pay a hefty ransom to get it back.

To make matters worse, these attacks have clearly been ramping up, with new attacks hitting the government of Costa Rica and an Illinois college so hard that they've both had to take drastic measures to keep their students and citizens safe.

Costa Rica's State of Emergency

Earlier this week, the Costa Rican government was hit with a ransomware attack using the increasingly dangerous Conti strain. The hackers insisted that government officials pay upwards of $10 million to get back the 672 GB of stolen data back. Government officials declined to pay the ransom, results in 97% of the information being released to the public.

In response, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves has declared a state of emergency in the Central American country, further demonstrating how serious cyber-attacks like this can be.

“We signed the decree so that the country can defend itself from the criminal attack that cybercriminals are making us. That is an attack on the Homeland, and we signed the decree to have a better way of defending ourselves,” said President Chaves.

In fact, the threat is so serious that the US government is also getting involved. Earlier this week, the State Department announced a total of $15 million in reward money for anyone with information about the identity of the gang responsible for these attacks.

Lincoln College Closes Doors

Still not sure about the dangers of ransomware? Well, this one should do it. Lincoln College is an educational institution that has been around since 1865, surviving everything from world wars to pandemics to financial crises in its storied history. Tragically though, the college will be closed its doors forever later this month due to a ransomware attack that crippled the school's administrative capabilities.

That's right, after a ransomware attack in December 2021 halted recruitment, retention, and fundraising, rendering them “inoperable” for a significant period of time. A statement from the predominantly Black college noted that things only got worse from there.

“Once fully restored in March 2022, the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester.”

Lincoln College will close its doors after 157 years on May 13th, 2022.

How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware

While ransomware may seem like something that “just won't happen to me,” the reality is that these attacks are getting more prevalent and, worse, more advanced, so keeping your business safe is as important as ever. While tools like antivirus software can help mitigate the risk, they aren't fool proof, which means you'll need to follow a few key steps to ensure your company data is safe.

For one, you need to back up your data thoughtfully and maintain those backups effectively. Secondly, training your team on how to follow security best practices is essential for any business. Finally, keeping your systems up to date by updating them consistently will close any security loop holes on services you use for your business every day.

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Conor is the Senior Writer for Tech.co. For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.

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