Saturday, Dec 10 2016 | Updated at 05:44 AM EST

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Dec 01, 2016 08:24 AM EST

Hackers Held University Network System Hostage in Exchange for Ransom

A hacker using a laptop computer
Hackers have infected Carleton University's network with ransomware, demanding 39 Bitcoin ($29,000) as payment for the release of its files.
(Photo : Rob Kim/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Using Ransomware, hackers attempted to hold a university's network hostage to the tune of $29,000 (according to current conversion rates), news reports say.

Carleton University in Canada has been infected with ransomware, a type of computer virus that locks down computers using encryption, only to be opened after payment has been made, CBC reported. The university, which was infected Tuesday, has since warned its students not to use their computers or connect to the school's network.

"Any system accessible from the main network, that is Windows based, may have been compromised," Carleton's Computing and Communications Services department wrote in an update to its website Tuesday morning. "To reduce traffic on the network, it is recommended that users refrain from using Microsoft Windows systems at the current time and shut down your computer."

The infection affected Carleton Central, the university's information hub for administrative services. David Kenyi, a volunteer Carleton's International Student Services Office, said that students have been unable to register for events at his office, and needed to do it manually using pen and paper.

According to a graduate student who informed CBC of the matter, the hackers demanded payment in the form of an online currency called Bitcoin, which is difficult to trace. The graduate student noted that according to a message seen in one of the school's computers, the hackers were asking for two bitcoin ($1,489.10) per computer, or a total of 39 bitcoin (about $29,000) for all the school's files to be released.

On the day of the infection, the university warned students that if they receive messages demanding a payment, they should ignore it and report it to the school's CCS help desk. The university said that they will work on securing the school's network.

As of reporting time, the CCS department announced that "At this time, no personal information has been accessed. Access to email has returned and is functioning. Repairs to enterprise systems are progressing. With the return of email, all future updates will be emailed to faculty and staff."

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