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Fallout from the 'cyber incident' at Laurentian University continues

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A 'cyber incident' that started on Feb. 18 has taken several IT systems at Laurentian University offline, including the university’s website.

While it was reading week at LU, the incident still caused many problems and stress for students and staff – including there being no WiFi or access to IT services anywhere on campus.

University officials said modifications will be made for exams and assignments due to the service interruptions.

The university has been providing updates on their progress addressing the incident over the last several days and the status of IT services can be viewed online here.

In the most recent update as of this publication, the school said it has made "excellent progress" and the IT teams continue their work.

"We are now able to confirm that classes will be held in-person and on-campus as planned as of February 26," the school said Saturday.

"The technology available during the next week will be limited as teaching will be done without internet connectivity. All efforts are being put forward to enable as many teaching-related technology resources as possible."

Campus Network

School officials said the campus network has been "significantly impacted." The network is the focus of a dedicated team within the IT department.

"Campus Wi-Fi will likely be unavailable for most of the week of February 26," the update reads.

"We appreciate that instructors may have to adapt their on-campus teaching methods in the absence of internet connectivity and access to digital systems, and that staff may adjust their activities," said Dr. Brenda Brouwer, interim provost and vice-president academic, on Saturday.

"We do what’s needed to ensure our students learn and progress with their studies and that they have access to services."

The school said special consideration will be required to address the impact for students enrolled in online, remote or hybrid instruction who are not on-campus.

"The details of the accommodation will be communicated once we have a timeline as to when services are expected to resume," the update on Saturday read.

The residences had internet connectivity restored on Feb. 21.

"We are now working towards expanding this access to other Wi-Fi routers and buildings," the school said.

"This will be a gradual process as internet access is restored to other locations."

LU said it expects that most buildings will be without internet connectivity (Wi-Fi or wired) for most of the week, this includes classrooms and offices.

A critical security update

As a result of the incident, LU is enhancing its network security to safeguard community and personal information.

"This update involves installing the SentinelOne (S1) Agent on all staff and faculty computers connected to the university network," said the school.

"This includes student employees of Laurentian University."

Staff and faculty will be required to physically visit an IT Services Kiosk on campus with their laptops before being able to access the campus network.

The kiosks will be set up at four locations on Monday:

  • IT HelpDesk in the J.N. Desmarais Library
  • Parker Building Atrium (Liaison desk)
  • McEwen School of Architecture - SA-113
  • School of Education - SE 104A

"IT staff will be at these locations and will install S1 software," said LU officials.

"The process takes less than ten minutes and will best protect your device and the information it stores and accesses. Moving forward, the new software (SentinelOne) will be required in order for staff and faculty to access the campus network and cloud-based services like D2L, Google, and Zoom."

A schedule has been posted online to assign priority times for staff and when drop-in services will be available.

Staff with desktop computers will have to notify their supervisor so they can advise IT when to install the update.

Authentication system

"Re-establishing the authentication system has been challenging but the team has surmounted the obstacles and plans to enable authentication in the coming days," said the school in the Feb. 25 update at 5 p.m.

Cloud-based services like D2L, Google, and Zoom cannot be accessed through the campus network and access will remain offline while the school “further investigates” the cyber incident.

Upon the first login, users will be prompted to validate their identity and change their password.

"If you are unable to validate your identity, please contact IT," said officials.

After installing the critical update (described in the previous section) and changing their password faculty and staff will be able to access cloud-based services.

LU Payroll

The school had previously said payroll was not expected to be disrupted as a result of the network disruption – but the most recent update indicates employees on timesheets (casual or bi-weekly staff) will have to have forms completed by their manager to ensure staff is paid accurately and on time.

Help available

Laurentian has set up an online FAQ on Google Documents to help students, faculty and other staff navigate the outages.

The recent updates do not indicate a firm timeline for restoring all services to students.

"Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to overcome the challenges ahead," reads the update.

"Please know that all team members are working as hard as they possibly can to help regain access to the essential tools and systems we depend on."

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