Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Dun Deagh

Northumbria University hit by cyber attack

Northumbria University has been hit by a cyber attack, leading to the cancellation of exams and a disruption to the clearing hotline.

The institution said there had been “operational disruptions across networks and IT systems” on Friday 28 August, and that “immediate action” had been taken to mitigate the impact.

It closed its campus in order to focus all efforts on dealing with the attack, and warned students that there will be no access granted for the remainder of this week.

The student portal and other online platforms used in day-to-day studies have also been temporarily switched off as a precautionary measure.

Exam deadlines will be extended and exams rescheduled as a result of the attack, and the university’s Twitter account has advised those calling the clearing hotline to use an email address instead.

Certain essential services, such as security and cleaning, remained unaffected and continued to support those living in residences.

In a letter sent out to all students, deputy vice-chancellor Peter Francis said that an ongoing IT issue which caused “significant operational disruption” turned out to be “a cyber incident”.

He explained that a group of external specialists had launched an investigation into the incident. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), Northumbria Police and other regulatory bodies had also been informed of the attack.

Northumbria University can confirm that we have been the victim of a cyber-incident which is causing operational disruption across our network and IT systems

– Northumbria University Spokesperson 

He wrote: “The investigation is still at an early stage and we are working to recover the university’s systems and services as safely as possible in order to minimise the impact on you all.

“We take the security of our system extremely seriously, and were able to respond quickly to this incident.”

He advised students that further advice and guidance will be issued as soon as possible.

“I recognise this is a very challenging time for us all and I would like to thank you in advance for your support and patience on this matter,” he wrote.

A spokesperson for Northumbria University said: “Northumbria University can confirm that we have been the victim of a cyber-incident which is causing operational disruption across our network and IT systems.

“Since we became aware of the incident, we have been working with a group of external specialists who launched an investigation and also took immediate action in order to mitigate the impact.

“The matter has been reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we are working with Northumbria Police, and other regulatory bodies as appropriate.

“The investigation is still at an early stage and we are currently assessing the scope of the incident.”

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: “We have been contacted by Northumbria University and are assisting them with an ongoing incident which is currently under review.”

Data released last month revealed that a third of UK universities have been attacked with ransomware in the past decade.

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