Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 22, 2020

How Marxmail 1.0 got cancelled

Filed under: Marxmail — louisproyect @ 8:55 pm

On August 14th, I wrote an article on CounterPunch about the new Marxism list titled “Marxmail 2.0”. This move was forced on us when, for some mysterious reason, the U. of Utah server stopped sending out mail and attempts to reach websites associated with Marxmail at the school could not be reached.

Attempts to find out from U. of Utah why this happened yielded no replies, not from IT nor from academic administrators. In my article, I raised the possibility that something political might be going on but went on to dismiss it: “Since the server crash impacted mailing lists having nothing to do with Marxism, I suspect that the real problem was a security breach that was serious enough for the university to pull the plug on the economics department server.”

Yesterday, we finally discovered what happened, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune:

The University of Utah paid extortionists almost half a million dollars after a ransomware attack on some of its computer servers, and is now telling students, staff and faculty to change their university passwords.

According to a statement issued by the university, it paid $457,059.24 to an “unknown entity” that hacked the College of Social and Behavioral Science servers on July 19, rendering them “temporarily inaccessible.”

The cyber criminals encrypted about 0.02% of the data stored there before the U.‘s Information Security Office detected the attack. The university did not specify the threat, but ransomware attacks involve criminal groups that hack into and steal data; encrypt it so that its owners cannot access it; and demand payment to release the data — often threatening to release sensitive information if their demands are not met.

The police were contacted and the university engaged “an outside consultant with expertise in handling these types of situations.”

The affected servers were “immediately isolated from the rest of the university and the internet.” The servers were “cleaned, and college data was reinstalled from system backups.” But because it included employee and student information — and after “careful consideration” — the ransom was paid “as a proactive and preventive step to ensure information was not released on the internet.”

According to the statement, the U.‘s cyber insurance policy paid “part of” the $457,059.24 ransom, and “the university covered the remainder.” The U. did not specify the breakdown, but added that “no tuition, grant, donation, state or taxpayer funds were used to pay the ransom.”

Ten days after the attack, students, staff and faculty were told to change their university passwords. According to the university, the delay was because there had to be “a full understanding of what information may have been stolen and how access was gained” as it worked “with law enforcement to determine what steps” should be taken.

Even now, the server at the U. of Utah is still unresponsive at least to services once supplied such as ours. Furthermore, even if services are ever restored, we are in a better position at Marxmail 2.0 because it gives me and Marxmail technical coordinator Les Schaffer far more control.

In only a week, Marxmail 2.0 has grown to 541 subscribers, about half of whom are subscribers from Marxmail 1.0, plus those of you who have joined us as a result of my CounterPunch article or my mention of the new site on Facebook.

I can say that the new location suits our needs perfectly and that there has been a robust discussion now going on there. You can read the messages there to get an idea of the kind of exchanges taking place. If you find it meets your needs, sent mail to marxmail+subscribe@groups.io to become a subscriber.

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