Sunderland University IT Systems Crippled By Cyberattack

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University admits ‘extensive IT issues’ after a suspected cyberattack takes down website, telephones, and IT systems, and impacts onlines classes

A British university has admitted that a suspected cyberattack has caused “extensive IT issues”, that has reportedly led to the cancellation of all online classes.

The University of Sunderland admitted the problem in a Twitter post.

“The University continues to experience extensive IT issues which has all the hallmarks of a cyber-attack. Our telephone lines, website and IT systems are still down.”

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Sunderland University

The University confirmed that its campus remains open, but a local newspaper, the Sunderland Echo, reported that all online classes (which became crucial during the Covid pandemic) have been cancelled. Staff members are also facing difficulties accessing their emails.

The University of Sunderland’s official website also remains inaccessible, as of 3pm BST Wednesday.

“We intend to continue face to face teaching as far as possible and will continue to update our staff and students, as well as continue working with the police,” said the university.

“We take the security of our systems extremely seriously and we will resolve this as quickly as we can,” it added. “We ask that prospective students direct message any inquiries in the meantime and that current students email universitysunderland.enquiries@gmail.com.”

“Thank you for your patience,” it concluded.

University attacks

Cyberattacks against universities have been carried out for years now.

Indeed, VMware research in 2016 suggested that more than a third (36 percent) of UK universities were blighted by a cyber attack each hour.

In 2018 Jisc – the UK provider of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) services for the education sector – warned that a spate of cyber attacks against universities and colleges in the UK was more than likely down to staff or students, rather than outside hackers.

Even more concerning, in 2019 Jisc carried out penetration testing agreed in advance with a number of universities, and enjoyed a high success rate of gaining access to high-value data within two hours when spear phishing was used as a method of infiltration.

In 2020 cyberattacks also impacted schools, universities and colleges during the Coronavirus pandemic, including attacks on Newcastle University and Northumbria University.

In April 2021, the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Portsmouth also suffered network outages lasting days after ransomware threat actors struck.

In February 2020 IT systems at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council were crippled for over three weeks, forcing staff to use to pen and paper, and which cost it at least £10m.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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