Police investigating cyber attack affecting online university services

Joe Molander reports on the IT issues being experienced by students

Joe Molander
1st September 2020
Image: Newcastle University
Newcastle University Vice Chancellor Chris Day has confirmed that the IT issues affecting a number of University services are the result of a cyber attack. In a statement, Day echoed an earlier prediction by the University that the issues are likely to take “a number of days” to solve.

In the statement, Day confirmed “we have suffered a cyber incident which is now the subject of a Police [sic] investigation”. Who is responsible, how it was carried out or to what end is not yet known.

The IT issues began on Monday 31 August. The Student Self Service Portal (S3P) is currently still down, leaving students unable to register for their degree programmes if they haven’t done so already.

Some online exams have also been unable to go ahead, and are to be rescheduled. In a post on social media yesterday, the University cited “technical problems”.

The post assured students that “Our teams are working hard to resolve the problem”. Day's statement warns "we may need to temporarily take our systems completely offline later today or tomorrow".

Some students also reported not being able to access their University email, though emails now appear to be accessible. The University announced that it was expecting that remaining issues “may take longer than normal to resolve”.

The announcement admitted that the University was currently only able to offer “a very limited set of services”. These are Microsoft Office365 services – including Microsoft Teams and University emails – and Canvas, the virtual learning environment that recently replaced Blackboard.

One user, Ruth, was left unable to submit her cover letter, personal statement and CV for a PhD application.

Speaking to the Courier, she explained "there should have been more information".

"I called on Monday to report the issue and was told to call back, but it was bank holiday Monday, so the University was closed. I also then called on Tuesday, and those who I spoke to were not aware of the shutdown."

"I also felt there should have been an alternate contact, as because the system was down I was unable to email them and notify them of my issues."

"There should have been information online, to make others aware, for example on social media."

The announcement from the University explains that “We cannot [reinstate affected IT services] until further investigations are complete. We do not currently have an estimated timescale for this and it is likely to be a number of days.”

“We do expect that we will be able to restore some services earlier than others and this list will be published via the IT Service website.”

Featured Image: Newcastle University

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AUTHOR: Joe Molander
Head of Current Affairs and co-founder of The Toon Lampoon. Politics, interviews, satire and the Courier's leading authority on frosted tips. @JoeMolander on Twitter and full portfolio available on Muckrack.

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