University of Northampton hit by "huge" cyber attack which sparks police investigation

The University of Northampton said it is working with experts to resolve the problems caused by the attack

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 2:53 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 3:09 pm

A cyber attack on the University of Northampton, which reportedly brought its IT services to its knees, has sparked a police investigation.

The university said it was hit by the hackers on Wednesday (March 17) and confirmed that it is working with experts to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

A University of Northampton spokesman said: “We can confirm that on March 17, the university detected a cyber attack, which resulted in an interruption of services to our IT and telephone systems and servers.

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The University of Northampton has been the victim of a cyber attack. Picture by Kirsty Edmonds.

“We are working with expert consultants to investigate and resolve this issue as quickly as possible, including legal counsel and IT forensics investigators, who are assessing the impact and advising on the appropriate remedial actions. The full facts of the situation have not yet been established and we will provide further information as soon as we can.

“We have notified the Information Commissioner’s Office as a precaution and are liaising with the police as we investigate this attack further. A number of temporary work around solutions are being rolled out to support students and staff."

The spokesman went on to say that cyber attacks on universities are becoming "increasingly common" as criminals target educational establishments with "no regard" to the disruption to teaching and learning such attacks cause.

“At the University of Northampton, we take the safety and security of our information as well as the continuity of our systems and services extremely seriously - and will continue to take every action to protect the organisation against cyber attacks. We would like to thank students and staff for their patience during this time,” the spokesman added.

One student, who alerted this newspaper to the issue and wishes to remain anonymous, said: "It's huge [the effects of the attack], unprecedented and has being going on for six days so far.

"The computer-based phone system is not functioning. There have been some issues with emails. The Northampton Integrated Learning Environment (NILE) is down - this is an e-facility used by students across the university.

"Teaching was initially suspended in many areas but we're told is now going ahead using different methods. The staff shared drive IT facilities are not accessible. Initially, this meant various employees couldn't do much of their work because they were unable to access key systems or databases.

"We're told workarounds are now in place but that these "take time to organise"."

A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that together with the National Cyber Security Centre, we are working with the university to support them and investigate this cyber-attack. Enquiries are ongoing."