California Community College Overcoming Malware Attack to Start Semester

College of the Desert, a public community college in Palm Desert, Calif., is still recovering from the consequences of a malware attack to its website on August 23 but moved forward to begin its online semester as planned earlier this week.

When Superintendent and President Joel Kinnamon became aware of the event, he authorized the executive director of educational technology to hire a third-party forensic team to investigate the matter, per a press release from the school. The college’s IT staff worked with third-party cyber experts “around the clock” to bring systems back online, uncover the cause and scope of the incident, and report it to the FBI.

“The restoration process requires extensive system and data testing. We will not risk resuming operations before testing the stability and reliability of the system,” Kinnamon said. “While we cannot provide an exact timeframe for the complete remediation of college systems, we are working diligently to ensure systems and operations are restored as soon as possible.”

Despite the attack, classes started on August 31 as originally planned by the college. Students were instructed to access classes and contact instructors using the online learning management system Canvas and communicate with counselors through the college’s Cranium Café platform.

Officials assured students that while the systems are down from the attack, they will not be dropped from classes due to nonpayment of fees and the university said it would communication updates to students through its emergency text alert system.

“The restoration process requires extensive system and data testing. We will not risk resuming operations before testing the stability and reliability of the system,” Kinnamon wrote in an August 25 update about the event. While the attack affected most members of the college community, officials said there was no evidence that personally identifiable information has been compromised.

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.