DALLAS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Gaston College is a victim of a ransomware attack that prompted the school to take critical systems offline for caution.  

A college spokesperson said the it discovered the security issue Feb. 22.   

The school provided alternative links for students and staff, so campus operations and classes could continue.  

Tom Blanchard is a cyber security expert as CEO of Charlotte-based Sterling Technology Solutions. 

“Essentially, it puts everything on lock down,” Blanchard said. “So, they can’t access their school system that may be where the students upload their homework and the teacher’s chat access, it all gets shut down.” 

Two weeks ago, those links were no longer needed. But the investigation continues.  

The college said they did not engage with the attacker. A spokesperson provided the following statement: 

“Gaston College discovered a potential network security issue on February 22, 2023, and immediately took the college’s critical systems offline. In accordance with North Carolina law governing state agencies, Gaston College did not engage with the threat actor and promptly involved agency partners to secure possibly affected systems. Faculty, students and staff were informed via the Gaston College website as to the system interruption. Additional updates have been shared there as well.”

– Gaston College

“I would be very surprised if the ultimate cause of this wasn’t some sort of social engineering or user interaction where they gave up credentials,” Blanchard said. “That’s where all of this stuff starts.” 

Blanchard says attackers typically use two methods to infiltrate a system – gaining access through a remote desktop server or an email breach.  

“Once an email is breached, they will use that email to send out ransomware to the address bookliest of that user so that is how ransomware can spread or result from an email breach,” Blanchard said.