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Daily Illini cyberattack generates 'pure shock'

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Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Champaign News-Gazette on Feb. 18.

CHAMPAIGN – A malware attack on the servers of the Illini Media Company left the student-run The Daily Illini unable to publish its print edition Feb. 18 and compromised employee information, the newspaper reported Feb. 17.

"As you can imagine, we are in emergency mode over here," co-publisher Kit Donahue said in a text message the afternoon of Feb. 17 between back-to-back meetings. "I can tell you that it was a ransomware attack and it happened (the) morning (of Feb. 16). Online coverage is not a problem, and our radio station, WPGU, is still able to broadcast.”

She said The Daily Illini was working with its tech team and local law enforcement.

“But because this is an ongoing criminal investigation, we don't have a lot of information we are able to share at this point," Donahue said.

Illini Media Co. is the parent company of The Daily Illini, WPGU-FM and the Illio yearbook. The newspaper has a daily online presence but for about the past five years has published a print edition only twice a week.

It announced the malware attack Feb. 16 on social media, saying that print editions beyond Feb. 18 could be affected as well. The paper also reported that the attack was the second on the company's servers this year and "much larger" than the first in early January, when the paper was online only.

"Just pure shock," Chris Harlan, interim chair of Illini Media's board, said of their reaction to the attack.

A banker whose full-time job is CEO of the UI Community Credit Union, Harlan has had a bank-robbery-holdup metaphor going through his head since learning of the ransomware attack. He confirmed that Illini Media is working with the FBI.

With several people from the U of I on the Illini Media board, Harlan said they are getting good advice and trying to come to an agreement with a consultant to resolve the crisis.

"I went and looked at the report done of the public health district, and it's oddly very similar," Harlan said.

He was referring to a hack on the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District's server in early March, which took some services offline for as long as a week.

In late April, Parkland College was similarly victimized. Both Parkland and the health district had insurance that covered most of the nearly $1 million combined cost to rectify their situations.

Parkland's premium for a year's worth of that insurance coverage was $27,706, spokesperson Stephanie Stuart said.

Both those agencies worked with the FBI because there is not a lot that local law enforcement can do to investigate, said Urbana Police Sgt. Tim McNaught, who has specialized in computer forensic work for a little more than a decade.

"We could do a network investigation to figure out if it came in through an email or where it came from. The problem is, it's hard to trace," said McNaught, who's never personally investigated a network malware crime. "It's possible but difficult because these guys are good at hiding themselves. Oftentimes, they're not even in the U.S. They are overseas somewhere."

For just more than 10 years, McNaught has been the only investigator in his department with the expertise to do computer forensics. The training and the work are time-consuming, and not all local officers have the disposition or willingness to do such tedious investigatory work, especially for child-exploitation crimes, he noted.

Despite the lengthy and often costly process of trying to figure out where or how the breach happened, the agents said they have had success. Even if a victimized company resolved an attack without FBI help, the agency wants to hear from them.

Just 2 weeks ago, the FBI's National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force published a fact sheet about ransomware that said the most common ways that cyber criminals infect victims' machines are through email phishing campaigns and vulnerabilities in Remote Desktop Protocol and other widely used software programs.

To minimize the risk of ransomware attacks, the agency recommends:

  •  Backing up data daily, testing your backups and keeping those backups separate from your computer network. Instead of paying ransom, the victim can try to restore network data from the backups.
  • Using multi-factor authentication.
  • Updating and patching systems.
  • Having updated security solutions.
  • Reviewing and practicing a response plan.

Following the attacks on Parkland and the health district last spring, both stressed that no personal information was leaked in either incident, but officials gave few details of what happened.

McNaught said it's not uncommon for victims to not want to say much about such breaches because they basically amount to a hit on an agency's reputation, even though they are victims.

For information on cyberattacks or to report an attack, call the FBI's Springfield office at 217- 522-9675. Complaints should also be reported online to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov/Home/ Ransomware.

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Press Releases

 

Americans have been preparing
for the impact of a pandemic for over 75 years!

From home economics to the modern family and consumer sciences classes, the foundation of basic life skills helped bring families through 2020 and beyond.  


Feb. 9, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Marissa Kunerth, communications & public relations manager
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America
mkunerth@fcclainc.org

703-716-1308


RESTON, VA For many, it has taken a global pandemic to motivate them to refine and reuse many basic life skills. With restaurants closed and stay-at-home mandates in place, a growing number of adults have turned to online tutorials, social media recipes, and family and friends to learn basic life skills. Admittedly, more than a fourth of Americans admit they cannot cook and claim this skill is something they now realize is an essential skill that should be taught in every school in the United States.

75 years ago, when Future Homemakers of America (FHA), presently known as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), was founded, no one thought the skills gained through Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) classes would get families through a pandemic. The country was digging out of the Great Depression and using skills taught at home and in Home Economics to rebuild the economy of our country. In education, Home Economics transitioned to Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994 and some felt these classes were no longer essential. Since 2012, there has been an estimated 40% decline in FCS classes, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to an outcry to bring “Home Ec” back and reinforced how important basic life skills are to not only be successful at home but holistically as humans impacting careers and communities.

Since its inception in 1945, FCCLA has promoted the need for FCS education for every student in every state in every school. FCCLA knows the importance of FCS education, which provides students with lifelong skills such as nutrition, menu planning, food preparation, clothing care and construction, money management, child development, and workforce readiness. Many students move from learning basic skills in an apron to preparing hopefully to someday wear a chef’s coat.

Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood shares, “The Illinois Association of FCCLA is proud to be a part of the long-standing legacy of helping students become great leaders. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing young people making a difference in their personal lives, their homes, schools, and communities!”

Through FCS education, FCCLA provides opportunities for members to develop 21st century skills that enhance students’ understanding of community, work, family, and their interpersonal relationships. This year, FCCLA celebrates its 75th anniversary by commemorating all 50 state associations who have contributed to student’s success through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge, and career preparation.

Since chartering with the national organization in January 1946, thousands upon thousands of Illinois students have taken advantage of this incredible organization and all it has to offer. As a youth led organization, Illinois FCCLA has teams of student officers who serve at every level of the organization from the local high schools to the state and national levels. These youth leaders plan and assist with all the community service projects, leadership training, and conferences that are held. Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood adds “one of the greatest things about FCCLA is that it has so many different programs and opportunities for the students to find success in. From community service projects to competitive events, FCCLA gives students the opportunity to combine their education and leadership skills to make a difference and receive recognition for their accomplishments”.

FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.

Research Sources:

Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook

WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496

About FCCLA

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


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Illinois Principals Association to host first virtual Education Leaders Conference in February  

Feb. 1, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Dr. Jason Leahy, executive director
Illinois Principals Association
jason@ilprincipals.org

217-525-1383

SPRINGFIELD – In a first for the Illinois Principals Association, we are hosting our Annual Education Leaders Conference virtually. The 49th annual Education Leaders Conference and Exhibition, “L.E.A.D.” Conference (Learning – Equity – Advocacy – Diversity) will take place online February 22-23, 2021. The annual conference provides an opportunity for principals and other administrators to learn from leaders in the education field and participate in sessions to better serve their schools. 
 
“School leaders have been there to support teachers, guide parents, and serve our students through the multitude of challenges this school year,” said Dr. Amy Dixon, IPA President. “With the aid of the Illinois Principals Association, principals have not only overcome the challenges, but shown tremendous personal growth and flexibility.  Now it is time for school leaders to take time to recharge and renew their purpose, passion, and leadership. The IPA Education Leaders Conference is the premiere event of the year that will allow them to do that and so much more!”
 
The conference will include presentations from keynote speakers Adam Welcome, Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala, and Beth Houf.  Monday’s first general session will feature Adam Welcome, a Principal and Director of Innovation for a large school district in the Bay Area of California, and his presentation “Kids Deserve It!” Mr. Welcome has been honored as Principal of the Year for his region, a “20 to Watch” for the National School Board Association, guest blogger for EdWeek, NAESP magazine, and other publications. His presentation is a simple, yet profound message to become more engaged with your school community.
 
Speakers at the second general session on Monday afternoon include Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Schools, and Dr. Amy Dixon, principal of Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools in Carmi, IL and IPA President. IPA Principal of the Year awards, the Reaching Out & Building Bridges Award, and the Mr. John Ourth & Dr. Fred W. Singleton Professional Development Scholarships will also be presented at this session.
 
Beth Houf will begin the conference Tuesday morning with her presentation “The Power of Appreciation,” including strategies to build rapport with students, staff, and parents. Beth Houf is the proud principal of Fulton Middle School in central Missouri.  She is the Co-Author of “Lead Like a PIRATE:  Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff.”  Beth also serves as a facilitator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Leadership Academy, providing monthly training to state educational leaders.  She has spoken at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference, the Association for Middle-Level Education National Conference, the National Principals Conference, and many other state and local educational venues. 
 
The conference will include popular IGNITE sessions, presented by IPA Principal of the Year Award Winners and leaders including Mandy Ellis (Principal, Dunlap Grade School), Dan Kaiser (Retired Principal, Dwight Township High School), Hattie Llewellyn (Principal, New Berlin High School), Dr. Tron Young (Principal, Joseph Arthur Middle School), Dr. Marcus Belin (Principal, Huntley High School), and Abir Othman (Associate Principal, Victor J. Andrew High School). These innovative, fast-paced sessions provide a unique way to hear from dynamic speakers who will inspire fellow leaders.
 
Small group sessions at the conference include timely topics such as: Race Relations in Schools; Practical Steps for Transforming School Culture; Trauma Informed Care; Leading through the Lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Attendance, Chronic Absence, and Equity; Building Leadership Teams; and legislative and legal updates. Conference attendees can also explore the online exhibit hall for the latest in educational products and services, and resource materials from sponsors such as AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors), ECRA Group, Good for Schools, Horace Mann, Illinois Principals Foundation, Lifetouch School Portraits and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. For more information about the Education Leaders Conference, please visit ipafc20.zerista.com. For more information about IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.
 

The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 5,800 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders.

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Ten $1,000 Scholarships Now Available for Midwest High School Seniors  

High school seniors from states that surround Iowa have a chance to earn one of 10 $1,000 college scholarships


Jan. 13, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Christopher Weishaar
Digital Public Relations Specialist
Iowa Student Loan
cweishaar@studentloan.org

(515) 273-7140

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (Jan. 13, 2021) — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 30, 2021.

High school seniors may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. Iowa Student Loan® will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

“We know 2020 has been a tough year on students and families mentally and financially. We want high school seniors to have the tools and resources they need to plan and pay for college,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “The information students receive during the program can help them make better decisions as they consider college finances, student loans and their future financial situations. We hope families also take this opportunity to explore all the free resources available on our website.”

The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2020–2021 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2021. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.


Additional Resources Available 

Iowa Student Loan also has additional resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.


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About Iowa Student Loan
Established in 1979 as a private, nonprofit organization, Iowa Student Loan helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. Iowa Student Loan has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information about Iowa Student Loan, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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