Walla Walla University’s online network hacked | Education


COLLEGE PLACE — Walla Walla University officials are investigating a campus-wide cyberattack that took down online networks and phone lines this fall finals week.

School officials today labeled the hack, discovered on Monday, as a ransomware incident, but did not confirm that a monetary ransom was demanded.

WWU’s messaging system is working again, but a person answering a general contact phone on campus said all other office phones had not been restored as of this morning.

On Twitter, a person identifying as Sonia Barreraa posted on Tuesday that “apparently” someone had hacked into the school’s system and demanded a ransom.

“…obviously our school didn’t pay so all servers are down, nothing is working which means all my deadlines from today will be pushed to tomorrow,” the tweet read.

“It’s a Christmas miracle.”

Alerts sent Monday to the campus cellphone tree advised students not to log on to office or classroom computers and to unplug them from school networks.

“Do not attempt to reconnect it to the WWU Internet,” the message reads.

Messages to staff indicated that login credentials had been compromised and passwords were no longer operational.

Through the school’s campus-wide telephone alert system, students were asked to work directly with professors on assignments and tests.

According to the alert system, all WWU email accounts were locked at 1 p.m. Monday and were due for restoration Tuesday. Students were required to present identification to the school’s information technology office in person to resume using school email accounts.

Staff electronic time cards were also affected; paper time cards had to be returned, according to messages from the alert system.

In an official statement emailed to the Union-Bulletin question about the incident, WWU spokeswoman Kim Strobel said the school was using the services of a forensics company and was working to secure the affected computer system and bring it back online.

“Our academic administration worked with our professors to ensure the term was successfully completed,” she wrote.

In a statement, unidentified school officials said the university had been targeted by a ransomware incident and access to some school systems is expected to remain restricted through the end of term, ending this week.

“We understand the importance of protecting the information of our students, parents, employees, alumni and donors. As we work to complete the investigation of this incident, we will also be looking for opportunities to further improve our existing security measures,” the statement read.

WWU President John McVay said in the statement emailed to the school that while the incident was disruptive, he is proud of the way students, faculty and staff got along. mobilized to complete the fall term as planned.

McVay said they are working to restore university systems and he expects classes to resume as normal on January 6.

“All organizations, including universities, face rapidly evolving cybersecurity risks in the digital age,” he said in the prepared statement.

“However, we view the effect of the recent incident on our own campus as an opportunity to affirm our commitment to safety.”


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