Students concerns over lack of clarity from University after cyberattack shuts down systems

Students of NUI Galway have aired concerns over where they stand on assignment work and accessing course material following a cyberattack that resulted in the shutdown of their online systems.

According to an email sent by NUIG President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh to NUIG students, the attack was detected on Wednesday 29 September, was “sophisticated in nature” and there was no evidence of data being compromised or encrypted at that stage, nor has any ransom been demanded.

While technical experts within the University try to figure out what happened, systems such as the university Wi-Fi and network facilities, along with Blackboard, NUIG’s portal to access course materials, and Turnitin, their assignment submission site, have been subject to restrictions.

Criodán Ó Murchú, a Masters student in Environmental Science, told The College View that he has had trouble accessing data essential for his course studies.

“Our data is collected in a couple of points in the country, one of the points is Mace Head in Galway.

“We cannot access three weeks of data from that point because it is linked to the NUIG network”.

A masters student in NUIG, who wished to keep her anonymity, told The College View that the situation in the University was a “complete mess”.

“I can’t access crucial sites… such as the Career Development Centre, which is very important especially for masters and final year students”.

Tom Forde, a second year BA. in Government student, told The College View that workarounds which are in place are complicated to navigate, and the lack of Wi-Fi is making things even more difficult.

“I’ve been using 4G at home to access content and it’s unreliable, but when you go on campus its worse since everyone including the lecturers are trying to use it to display content”.

Mr. Forde added that no extensions to assignment deadlines have been issued to compensate for the lack of access to course material.

Seán Burke, a first year Economics student, told The College View that some significant assignments simply cannot be completed.

“When it comes to the multiple choice quizzes, which are a significant part of some of our modules, because they’re on Blackboard, that hasn’t been happening”

Students who spoke to The College View also aired their grievances for what Mr. Ó Murchú described as a “lack of updates” from the University.

“I’m paying significant thousands of euro for this course, and it’s disappointing overall”, Mr. Ó Murchú added.

Mr. Burke told The College View that it was “unfortunate” that an email from NUIG was not sent out earlier “when the University knew it had happened”.

Mr. Burke said the lack of information early on caused confusion and worry.

“There was confusion about why the WiFi wasn’t working and why Blackboard wasn’t working, two things that seemed not hugely connected”.

Mr. Burke said students “found out on Thursday morning on Twitter from the Students Union President that there would be no WiFi”, and a statement from the NUIG President was sent out on Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Burke also added that “NUIG often leaves students on a need-to-know basis.

“We will have to wait for the post-mortem to find out if NUIG was at fault and if NUIG did enough to protect students’ data”.

Asked if he had any concerns about his cybersecurity, Mr. Burke said it was a good thing that there was no evidence of any data being compromised.

“I’m sure the experts would let us know if there was an issue… there’s no reason to think something is up at this moment”.

“We will have to wait for the post-mortem to find out if NUIG was at fault and if NUIG did enough to protect students’ data”.

Mr. Forde also said he is concerned about cybersecurity as a result of this cyberattack.

“NUIG has significant portions of my data – my address, connections, funding and my income… I don’t want that accessible to anyone who wants them”.


Matthew Joyce


Image Credit: Wikipedia