More lawsuits filed over Knox College ransomware attack
By early December 2022, Hive ransomware gang had not only claimed responsibility for an attack on Knox College, but when the college hadn’t paid their demand, they contacted students directly. As NBC reported, the emails sought to get students to pressure the college to pay:
“We have compromised your collage networks,” the email said, written in the kind of broken English common among international ransomware hackers. “The data we have includes your personal information, medical records, psychological assessments, and many other sensitive data.”
“Additionally all of your SSN and Medical records will be put for sale, for every hacker to gain access and use your data in whatever illegal activity they want,” the hackers wrote. “To us, this is a normal business day. For you, its a sad day where everyone will see your personal and private info.”
In January — almost one month after the breach had been publicly noted and the students had received those alarming emails — the college sent notification of the incident to those affected and regulators. In a copy of the notice provided to the California Attorney General’s Office, they wrote:
On November 24, 2022, Knox discovered unusual network activity and learned that it was the victim of a ransomware attack. We immediately took steps to secure our network and initiated an investigation with the
the assistance of cybersecurity experts. The investigation revealed that an unknown actor gained access to and obtained data from the Knox network without authorization on or around November 24, 2022. On December 7, 2022, after a comprehensive review of the potentially impacted data, Knox determined that personal information may have been involved. Since that time, Knox has worked diligently to identify current contact information needed to notify all potentially affected individuals.
The information affected may have included your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, and passport number.
Shortly thereafter, lawsuits started being filed. Richard Eggers reports on some of them.
DataBreaches noted that the college’s description of data types involved differed significantly from what Hive claimed to have acquired. Had Hive leaked all the data, it would have been possible to determine if their claims were accurate or not, but Hive’s servers were seized before that happened.
Assuming, for now, that Hive had exfiltrated sensitive student files, the seizure of the servers may have spared Knox’s students the risk of their data appearing on leak sites or being sold. But how does the seizure affect any lawsuits? Does the government have all of the hacked Knox data? If so, can plaintiffs’ counsel get it to determine if sensitive medical and psychological records were involved? And can the college claim that since the data were on seized servers, there is no real risk to those notified?
These lawsuits against Knox will be interesting to track to see how developments affect the litigation.