Ransomware Attack Forces Abraham Lincoln College To Close Down After 157 Years

ransomware forces abraham lincoln college close down news
Ransomware attacks are growing rapidly in prevalence. The number of ransomware attacks in 2021 doubled over that of 2020, which already saw a doubling over 2019. Some of the most notable ransomware attacks have struck vital infrastructure and supply chains. However, ransomware attacks aren’t limited to these sectors. The education sector was subject to a 152% increase in ransomware attacks in 2021 and was the fourth most targeted sector in Q3 2021.

A ransomware attack that rocked Lincoln College shows just how devastating ransomware can be. Lincoln College, which was first established in 1865 on President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, will close its doors for good this Friday. Like many liberal arts colleges across America, Lincoln College has had financial and enrollment struggles, but, after David Gerlach took over as president in 2015 and made some changes, things seemed to be looking up for the institution of higher learning. Enrollment was at a record-breaking high in the Fall of 2019, maxing out residence hall capacity.

ransomware forces abraham lincoln college close down college news
Lincoln College’s University Hall

However, the situation took a turn for the worse when the coronavirus pandemic hit the following semester. Pandemic measures put a damper on recruitment, fundraising, and campus activities. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, bad actors hit Lincoln College’s computer systems with a ransomware attack in December 2021. The attack “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.

Lincoln College says that no personal identifying information was exposed, but, coming out of the pandemic, the ransomware attack still struck a fatal blow. According to the school’s president, the attack originated from Iran and carried a ransom under $100,000, which the college eventually paid. Unfortunately, even after paying the ransom, it took months to fully restore the college’s computer systems. By the time the school’s administration was able to view projections for enrollment in the coming year, the projections were below what was required to keep the school afloat.

In late March, President Gerlach informed the students of the dire situation and sent out a cry for help, asking for an “angel donor” to save the school from imminent demise by donating $50 million. A supporter of the college also launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $20 million, but as of the time of writing, this campaign has received only 24 donations totaling $2,452. No angel came to the school’s rescue, so, after 157 years of operation, Lincoln College will permanently close down on May 13, 2022.

A statement on the school’s website reads, “Lincoln College has survived many difficult and challenging times – the economic crisis of 1887, a major campus fire in 1912, the Spanish flu of 1918, the Great Depression, World War II, the 2008 global financial crisis, and more, but this is different … The institution has worked tirelessly to strengthen its financial position through fundraising campaigns, selling assets, consolidating employee positions, and exploring alternatives for the leased building in Normal. Unfortunately, these efforts did not create long-term viability for Lincoln College in the face of the pandemic … Though we are experiencing undeniable grief and sadness, we find comfort in knowing Lincoln College has served generations of alumni who have undoubtedly impacted our world.