Cyberattack on UK university knocks out online learning, Teams and Zoom

All live online teaching has been cancelled on Thursday and Friday.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The University of Hertfordshire has suffered a devastating cyberattack that knocked out all of its IT systems, including Office 365, Teams and Zoom, local networks, Wi-Fi, email, data storage and VPN.

The university reported the hit by attackers on Wednesday, resulting in the cancellation of all online classes on Thursday and Friday. 

"Shortly before 22:00 on Wednesday 14 April, the University experienced a cyber-attack which has impacted all of our systems, including those in the Cloud such as Canvas, MS Teams and Zoom," it said in an update on its website

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Due to pandemic restrictions on in-person classes, the university and most students still depend on online learning and video-conferencing apps like Zoom. The UK government has allowed some students to return to in-person teaching if they require specialist equipment, but has banned a full return until at least May 17.

The university noted that the outage may impact students submitting assignments, but assured them that no student would be disadvantaged as a result.

Students were allowed to attend the university so long as computer access wasn't necessary. 

"You will not be able to access computer facilities in the LRCs, Labs or the University Wi-Fi. Remote access to specialist software and PCs is currently unavailable," the university said.

Hertfordshire's system status page, last updated 17 hours ago, shows the extent of the disruption.

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It's not clear what kind of cyberattack the university experienced, but the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) last month warned of a surge in ransomware attacks on schools, colleges and universities.

"In recent incidents affecting the education sector, ransomware has led to the loss of student coursework, school financial records, as well as data relating to COVID-19 testing," the agency said.

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