Northumbria Uni locks down campus after major cyber-attack

Students have experienced disruption to assessment submission deadlines

Northumbria University has announced that it has experienced a serious cyber incident and has closed its campus in order to focus all efforts on dealing with the attack.

In an email to all students sent at around 11pm on the bank holiday, Deputy Vice Chancellor Peter Francis said that “Northumbria is now in a position to advise we have been the victim of a cyber incident” adding that the university has turned to “external specialists” to mitigate the impact of the attack and recover its systems.

Part of the e-mail sent to students at 22.55 on Monday night

Announcing the measure, Francis wrote, “For the remainder of this week, there will be no student access to campus whilst we work on restoring our network and connected services”.

Assurances were however offered that essential cleaning and security services were still in operation for those currently living in halls of residence.

When asked by The Newcastle Tab if students’ personal data had been breached, a university spokesperson said: “The investigation by IT forensic specialists is ongoing and we are unable to confirm further details about the incident at this stage.”

The university confirmed that its online services have been mostly shut down and students with upcoming deadlines would receive extensions

The Campus had begun reopening following the coronavirus lockdown on 6th August with limited opening hours to its City Campus Library.

The news comes of concern to students with submission deadlines for summer assessments and resits. The university has promised that deadlines will be extended and exams rescheduled making this yet another complication to an academic year already compromised by the pandemic.

Clearing has also been affected, with the university’s Twitter account advising applicants that their clearing hotline is out of operation and instead directing them to an email address.

The saga began on Friday morning when all staff and students received an email from the university’s IT Service Desk advising students to avoid logging into any university systems except e-mail through Microsoft Outlook.

By the end of the day these systems, including the Blackboard e-learning platform, were all unavailable to students and another email was sent out, assuring students that the university e-mail system remained stable, and reassuring students with deadlines that extensions would be given.

All university systems have remained offline since Friday, with the cyber-attack only being revealed to students over three days later.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor closed by praising Northumbria students’ patience, and asking them to “remain vigilant… to any unsolicited or suspicious communications”.

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