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Third-party investigators find personal data breached in ransomware attack

SALINAS, Calif. (KION-TV) UPDATE Nov. 12, 2022, at 6:37 p.m.- While the investigation is ongoing, Hartnell College said it determined that certain segments of its network were accessed during the ransomware attack.

Out of caution, the college said the data located in the affected areas were reviewed to identify what kind of information was contained.

“The third-party investigation confirmed that personal information was present in the impacted network locations,” said Hartnell President and Superintendent Michael Gutierrez. "We take privacy and security very seriously and will actively work to mitigate any risk to those affected." 

Potentially impacted individuals will be receiving a written notification letter, as well as an offer for 24 months of complimentary credit monitoring and protection services.

UPDATE Oct.14, 2022, at 5:33 p.m.- Hartnell says their network is estimated to return early as mid- to late-next week after a ransomware attack forced a shutdown of the system.

Hartnell said they have been working diligently to secure data and the system, mitigating risk to all personnel and restoring internet access.

“My team will be working all weekend installing additional security patches on laptops, or replacing those that can’t support them,” Pham said. “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.”

Hartnell said 2,000 devices were connected to the college's network at the time of the attack. This includes 300 laptops, and is the reason for the extended duration of the internet outage.

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 sensitive 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.

Hartnell

Hartnell being held hostage over data hack

UPDATE Oct. 5, 2022, at 4:33 p.m.- A Hartnell College board of trustees member confirmed with KION that they are holding a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the ransomware attack that occurred Sunday.

That board member said data is being held hostage, and the perpetrators are asking for an undisclosed amount of money. What that data is and who the hackers are have not been disclosed.

We are working on learning more details.

Hartnell College turns off the internet due to suspicious activity

On Sunday morning, Hartnell College shut their internet network off to all campuses due to suspicious activity

Chelsy Pham, who is the Vice President for Information Technology for the school, said that their monitoring notified her department had to come to the college and turn off all the internet for all of the campuses.

"The reason there is an internet outage is because we saw some suspicious activity happen on the network," Pham said.

Pham said that they have reported the activity to the college's third-party forensics investigator. She also shared that the FBI has been notified and have started an investigation.

The outage hit the main campus in Salinas but also the satellite campuses in East Salinas, Soledad, Castroville and King City. Pham said the internet was turned off at the satellite campuses as a precaution.

Classes on campus was not postponed on Monday and school services were still open.

While classes were still ongoing Wednesday, the internet outage is a pain for students who heavily rely on it while on campus.

“Especially nowadays where everyone relies off internet, I can't really access most of my assignments or textbooks or projects that I need to work on,” said Gabriel Reyes, a student at Hartnell College. “I can't really use my time productively.”

Some students told KION they didn't even notice the Wi-Fi was down.

Another student said they've had to use their own phone hotspots to do their work. But some don't have that option.

“I don't have that advanced smart phone where I carry Wi-Fi with me all the time,” one student said. “It's kind of hard.”

Pham said that hotspots were given out to faculty and staff. She shared that learning management services network Canvas is still up for students and faculty to use.

"We offer 30 to 40 online classes for students to take," Pham said. "Most of those students who take those classes are taking them from home and are not impacted."

The internet will start to get restored either on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning according to Pham.

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Derrick Ow

Assignment Editor for KION News Channel 5/46

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