Howard University cancels classes after ransomware attack

Howard University canceled classes on Tuesday after its network was the target of a ransomware cyberattack, according to school officials. The historically Black university said it intentionally shut down its network after noticing “unusual activity” last week.

“The situation is still being investigated,” the university wrote in a statement. “Based on the investigation and the information we have to date, we know the University has experienced a ransomware cyberattack.”

Howard’s physical campus is only open to essential employees on Tuesday, the announcement said. Non-essential staffers have been directed to stay home. The school’s WiFi service will be down until further notice and only some applications are accessible, although it is not clear which ones. Students and staff were advised not to call the school’s helpline should certain university applications not work during this time. 

“This is a moment in time for our campus when IT security will be at its tightest,” the university said. “We recognize that there has to be a balance between access and security; but at this point in time, the University’s response will be from a position of heightened security.”

Howard University
A sign at Howard University. Jeffrey Greenberg via Getty

The school said there hasn’t been evidence of personal information being leaked, but that its investigation into the “highly dynamic situation” is ongoing. The university said it is working with the FBI and local government to protect personal data and that operational updates will be provided daily. 

“Remediation, after an incident of this kind, is a long haul – not an overnight solution,” Howard said.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned organizations to be on alert for ransomware attacks before Labor Day weekend as a series of high-profile cyber incidents have had a pattern of landing on past holidays.