Lincoln College, an Illinois institution founded in 1865 and named after President Abraham Lincoln, is set to close this week after the school was unable to fully recover from a ransomware attack that occurred in December 2021.
The college noted that it had survived many difficult times throughout its history, including the economic crisis of 1887, a major campus fire in 1912, the Spanish flu of 1918, the Great Depression, World War II, and the 2008 global financial crisis.
Lincoln College is one of only a few rural American colleges that qualify as predominantly Black institutions by the Department of Education.
After a record-breaking student enrollment in 2019, the pandemic undoubtedly made things worse for the college, creating an enormous financial burden after many students decided to postpone their education, but the ransomware attack was the final straw that broke the camel's back. Its website says:
"Lincoln College was a victim of a cyberattack in December 2021 that thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data, creating an unclear picture of Fall 2022 enrollment projections. All systems required for recruitment, retention, and fundraising efforts were inoperable. Fortunately, no personal identifying information was exposed. Once fully restored in March 2022, the projections displayed significant enrollment shortfalls, requiring a transformational donation or partnership to sustain Lincoln College beyond the current semester."
David Gerlach, President of Lincoln College, had this to say:
"Lincoln College has been serving students from across the globe for more than 157 years. The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense."
NBC News reports that Kim Milford, Director of the Research and Education Networks Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a nonprofit group that assists member colleges in sharing information about cyberthreats, said the closure underscores the toll that ransomware attacks can take:
"I feel really bad for Lincoln College and wish there was some way we could help, but it can be a very expensive proposition when you're hit by ransomware," Milford said.
Lincoln College was not a member of the Research and Education Networks ISAC.
While this is an extreme example of the devastating consequences a ransomware attack can have, it is yet another reminder to make certain that your organization is protected from cyberthreats and has an incident response plan in place.