Fears Northampton university hit by cyber attack as major IT failure stops lessons

‘Beginning to feel like we’re in some crisis management war game but real. First the pandemic, now this . . .’

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By Sarah Ward

A major systems failure at the University of Northampton has caused havoc for six days and there are fears it could be down to a cyber security attack.

Students and staff have not been able to access the university’s internal systems since Wednesday, with the university cancelling online lessons and having to give students extensions for assignments.

It is understood the university, which is run by Vice Chancellor Nick Petford, is setting up emergency virtual classrooms today. 

The university has not confirmed whether it has had a cyber attacked, it has only cited ‘technical issues’ with its network and says a further statement will be issued later today.            

                                                                                                                                     

A lecturer told NN Journal:

“IT can’t say when it will be fixed. There is speculation this is a cyber attack. Serious server problems were spotted the previous week.

Beginning to feel like we’re in some crisis management war game but real. First the pandemic, now this . . .”

The systems failure follows confirmed cyber attacks at a number of universities across the country this month including at Queens University in Belfast and the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

The government’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued an alert at the start of the academic year to the education sector warning that they should be on their guard after a spate of ransomware attacks in August last year.

The University of Northampton’s critical incident group met on Thursday and again on Sunday evening. 

A student said:

“The uni are updating us constantly but they are being super vague about the problem.”

The only public statement made by the university so far was posted last Wednesday (March 17). It said its phone lines and IT systems were down and it was working to resolve the problem.

In a statement given to NN Journal on Friday a university spokesman said:

“The University has experienced a technical issue with its network that resulted in a temporary interruption in service for some of our systems; our IT colleagues are working to address this.

“We will continue to provide updates to our students and staff members, but would like to assure students that revised deadlines for assignment submission will be provided in due course when services are restored. We would like to thank students and staff for their patience during this time.”

NN Journal has contacted the NCSC for a comment.