UCSF paid a $1.14 Million ransom to decrypt files after Ransomware attack

The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) revealed that it paid roughly $1.14 million to cybercriminals to recover data after a ransomware attack.

Late last week, the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) admitted having paid roughly $1.14 million to cybercriminals to recover data encrypted during a ransomware attack that took place on June 1.

In response to the attack, the IT systems within the School of Medicine were quarantined.

UCSF said that it immediately contained the threat, but certain systems were affected. The USCF and the campus networks were not impacted, the organization pointed out that patient care delivery and COVID-19 operations were not impacted too. The University believes the attack was opportunistic and that did not target specific systems or data within the organization.

“While we stopped the attack as it was occurring, the actors launched malware that encrypted a limited number of servers within the School of Medicine, making them temporarily inaccessible,” reads a statement published by the UCSF.

“The attackers obtained some data as proof of their action, to use in their demand for a ransom payment. We are continuing our investigation, but we do not currently believe patient medical records were exposed,”

Threat actors accessed part of academic work and encrypted it, but due to the importance of the documents, the university decided to pay a portion of the ransom, approximately $1.14 million, to decrypt it.

UCSF has been working with a leading cyber-security consultant and other outside experts to investigate the incident and prevent similar attacks in the future. The university expects to fully restore the affected servers soon.

At the time of writing the organization has yet to provide details on the attack, but experts believe the systems were infected by the NetWalker ransomware operators.

“A form of ransomware known as NetWalker added two more colleges to its list of victims Wednesday by claiming to have stolen files from Columbia College in Chicago and the University of California, San Francisco, according to screenshots posted on a blog maintained by the hackers behind the attacks.” reported the website edscoop.com.

“This incident reflects the growing use of malware by cyber-criminals around the world seeking monetary gain, including several recent attacks on institutions of higher education. We continue to cooperate with law enforcement, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding that we are limited in what we can share while we continue with our investigation.” the statement concludes.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, UCSF)

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