SALINAS VALLEY — Since the discovery of a sophisticated ransomware attack at Hartnell College in the early hours of Oct. 2, the college’s Information and Technology Resources (ITR) Department has been working overtime to secure data and systems, mitigate risk to all personnel and bring internet resources back safely.
The incident prompted a manual network shutdown while third-party forensic incident response specialists and federal law enforcement agents investigated the incident.
Those investigations are ongoing, college officials said.
Meanwhile, the ITR team has worked to provide alternate internet access to support classroom learning, restore telephone functions and secure computers before reconnecting them to the network.
With more than 2,000 devices previously connected to the college’s network, including more than 300 laptops, this work is time-consuming.
Chelsy Pham, vice president of ITR, optimistically estimates that the network could be up and running by the end of this week.
“My team will be working all weekend installing additional security patches on laptops, or replacing those that can’t support them,” Pham said in a news release Oct. 14. “And they will be assisted by IT specialists from the Monterey County Office of Education, Monterey Peninsula College, Riverside College, and CSUMB, who all offered their assistance. We are so grateful for our colleagues’ support.”
Employees will be trained on additional security measures that will be in place, such as a two-factor authentication process, updated password protocols and on best practices in cybersecurity in general.
While this work continues, most programs and systems at the college have continued with little disruption.
For instance, the college website, the learning platform, electronic resources in the library and emergency notification systems are all fully functional. Classes and athletic events continue as scheduled.
“I could not be prouder of our faculty, staff and students,” said Superintendent/President Michael Gutierrez, “who have rallied to keep our educational programs going during this challenging time.”