Cyber attack blacks out thousands of Preston students

Thousands of students have been affected after a cyber attack on the computer system of the University of Central Lancashire.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 9:45 am

The hacking happened over the weekend and was still not fully resolved by yesterday.

It is believed no data was stolen in the attack.

Students, many of whom are working remotely during the Covid lockdown, found themselves unable to submit work.

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UCLan's computer system was compromised over the weekend.
UCLan's computer system was compromised over the weekend.

Staff were also affected, being unable to do marking or even access timetables for lectures. Emails were also disrupted.

The system was compromised on Sunday, but the quick response of university’s IT team meant many of the problems had been ironed out by Monday. Yet some issues were still unresolved yesterday as experts worked to restore things fully.

The university has confirmed the problem was due to a cyber attack rather than a malfunction.

A spokesman said: “The university first became aware of a cyber-incident disrupting its networks and IT systems on Sunday, 7 March, and deployed a full incident response plan to evaluate the extent of the issue and to stabilise the situation.

“The university suspended access to a number of its systems as a precautionary measure following the incident, which meant a short period of downtime for our students and colleagues. However, our core student learning systems were largely back to full operation on Sunday evening, meaning that teaching and learning could continue on Monday.

“There is currently no evidence of any loss of university data. Unfortunately, these kind of attacks against large organisations are not uncommon and we are liaising with the police and other authorities to complete the required investigations and apply the necessary measures to protect against any future risks.”

UCLan is one of several universities and school around the UK to suffer disruption due to hackers in recent days - part of a growing pattern of attacks during the Covid pandemic.

In Preston UCLan has said its IT technicians working to get the systems back up to full capacity are prioritising parts which are “critical to teaching and learning.”

The incident comes just six months after a cyber attack on Myerscough College near Preston left students unable to access exam results. Lancaster University was also targeted by hackers in 2019.