ATTLEBORO — The computer systems of Bristol Community College were hacked in a “ransomware” incident, college officials acknowledge.
The college, which has a campus in Attleboro, said in a statement posted Friday on its website their computer network was hacked by a “criminal cyberattack” and “this incident involved ransomware encryption.”
“We would like to thank you for your patience and flexibility over the past week as we navigate the impact of what we now know to be a criminal cyberattack, which is an attempt by hackers to damage the college’s computer network,” the college said.
“The college has discovered a network interruption issue impacting onsite internet and network functions including email, Teams, shared document sites and information systems, for students and employees,” college officials said.
“At this time, Bristol Community College has no forensic evidence that this incident resulted in the unauthorized access to, or acquisition of, personal information,” the college added.
The breach took place around Dec. 23, officials said.
“The college immediately launched an investigation, in consultation with cybersecurity professionals who regularly investigate and analyze these types of incidents around the country, to determine the extent of any compromise to the information on its network,” the college said. “In the event that the investigation determines that personal information was compromised, individuals will be contacted directly with guidance and next steps.”
School officials for now recommend students and staff change their passwords and report any unusual activity.
College officials Thursday would only say the college experienced a “cybersecurity incident.”
College officials have been trying to fix problem with the help of information technology specialists, Kevin Spirlet, a spokesman for the college, said.
Spirlet Thursday would not elaborate nor answer questions about whether the college’s systems were hacked.
Winter classes are in session and the college said it’s continuing to move forward with plans for the spring semester.
On its website, the college says email, AccessBCC and some online services are temporarily unavailable.
College services, including Enrollment Center, student accounts, financial aid and more are available by phone or walk-in during this time. However, given the limited access to college information systems, services may be limited, the college added.
“We understand that this causes significant disruptions for our students, faculty and staff as we head into the Spring semester in a few short weeks,” college officials said.
The college said it will continue to provide updates on the investigation’s status and findings on its website.
In the meantime, students and staff are advised to change all passwords, including bank accounts, credit cards and other financial institutions, using “ strong” new passwords.
They should also review their statements and watch for suspicious activity, monitoring credit reports regularly and report suspicious activity or unauthorized charges to their bank or financial institution.
For more information to safeguard information and what steps to take if compromised, visit identitytheft.gov.
In 2021, more than 4,100 publicly disclosed data breaches took place, resulting in 22 billion records exposed. Educational and research institutions were targeted by an average of 1,065 cyberattacks per week in 2021 — a 75% increase from 2020, Bristol officials said.
Bristol’s main campus is located in Fall River, and it also has satellite campuses in Taunton and New Bedford.