Colorado higher education department reports ransomware attack

The Colorado Department of Higher Education said sensitive data was compromised following a ransomware incident this past June.
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver (Getty Images)

The Colorado Department of Higher Education on Friday reported it was the victim of a data breach following a ransomware attack this past June, and that the personal information of students and teachers dating back to 2004 may have been affected.

While the department said it became aware of the breach on June 19, the unauthorized access to its systems took place between June 11 and June 19, according to a news release. The stolen data included names, Social Security numbers and other education records, the state reported.

A swath of former students may have been affected: The department said those who attended a public institution of higher education in Colorado between 2007-2020 or attended a Colorado public high school between 2004-2020 may have had their personal information stolen.

Additionally, the data of individuals with a Colorado K-12 public school educator license between 2010-2014, participated in the Dependent Tuition Assistance Program from 2009-2013, participated in Colorado Department of Education’s Adult Education Initiatives programs between 2013-2017 or obtained a GED between 2007-2011 may have also been impacted by the incident.


The department said it took steps to secure the network after the breach was detected and that the incident is still under criminal and internal investigation. It’s working with an unnamed third party to conduct the investigation and systems have returned to normal operations, the news release said.

The department said once its review is complete, potentially affected individuals will be notified by mail or email. It also said it’s reviewing its policies and procedures and bolstering its cybersecurity safeguards to further protect its systems.

Colorado’s Department of Higher Education is just the latest state and local government departments to be hit with ransomware. This past May, sensitive files were downloaded during a ransomware attack in Dallas, Texas, that temporarily took down the city’s website, police department website and disrupted 911 operations.

Dozens of state and federal government agencies were also victims of a recent global cyberattack following exploiting a vulnerability in the popular file transfer software MOVEit. That incident allowed the ransomware group Cl0p to access the personal information of millions over the past year.

Some attacks have led localities to declare emergencies, including a February ransomware incident in Oakland, California. Colorado’s transportation department was attacked in 2018, also leading the state to issue a statewide emergency declaration.

Keely Quinlan

Written by Keely Quinlan

Keely Quinlan reports on privacy and digital government for StateScoop. She was an investigative news reporter with Clarksville Now in Tennessee, where she resides, and her coverage included local crimes, courts, public education and public health. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Stereogum and other outlets. She earned her bachelor’s in journalism and master’s in social and cultural analysis from New York University.

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