UK academic network hacked

The UK’s publicly-funded computer network, ‘JANET’, has been hacked today, causing a ‘major national incident’ for university computer services across the country.

The system, which deploys eduroam to university campus across the country, fell victim to a denial-of-service attack at around 9:30 this morning. 

A DDoS attack involves an attempt to make a network unavailable to its users by temporarily interrupting or suspending services of the host connected to the Internet. Attacks often involve flooding a network with traffic and forcing the service to crash.

The motive behind the hack remains unknown at this time.

Reports of students being unable to work on essays and log in to student accounts have been received from all across the country ranging from York, Essex, Coventry, Southampton and Sussex. Leicester, Manchester, UCL, and SOAS have also reported issues with eduroam.

The British Museum has also suffered from the DDoS attack.

Sussex Direct and Study Direct were also reportedly down for most students, although IT Services have claimed that ‘logins and access to files are now returning to normal’. However, some Sussex students are still unable to log in to campus computers.

Computer systems at the Health Centre on the Falmer campus were also affected by the hack, with staff apparently unable to access documents and files of patients.

IT Services have apologied for the issues, and have told students that they expect the ongoing hack to be resolved later today. They have advised students to use Macs on campus, which are mostly unaffected by the problem, or to try and log in on PCs they have used within the last few days.

In a statement, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Sussex Claire Mackie apologised for the disruption students faced due to the attack, saying:

I apologise for the disruption experienced this morning to teaching and assessment caused by two problems, one national and one local.

The national problem is affecting all UK universities and has resulted in intermittent internet access linked to continued hacking attacks on the UK’s academic network (JANET). This is affecting student ability to access cloud-based resources and files from campus.

The local problem with logins and access to files was resolved at 11.00 am this morning. Nevertheless it will have impacted on teaching and student access.

In terms of assessment deadlines, I would ask all students to continue to work toward published deadlines which allow for late submission of up to one week.

I will keep the situation under review. If there is any further disruption that may impact on assessment I will remove penalties or if necessary reset deadlines to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by the outage.

Jisc, the organisation responsible for running Janet, has been updating Twitter with updates on the situation, saying that services remain at risk.

A recent Tweet by Jisc Major Incidents suggests that the attacker maybe operating from the East Midlands.

More to follow…

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