Regis University’s technology systems targeted by “malicious threat” likely from outside the country

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A forensic investigation at Denver’s Regis University confirmed Friday that the private college’s technology systems were attacked by a “malicious threat” likely from outside the country.

Tony Gutierrez, The Associated Press

Signs on a bank of computers tell visitors that the machines are not working at the public library in Wilmer, Texas, on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. Cyberattacks that recently crippled nearly two dozen Texas cities have put other local governments on guard.

“Immediately upon discovering this issue, we quickly and intentionally took our information technology systems offline in an effort to protect the university and your information while we initiated an investigation and notified law enforcement,” Regis said in a statement Friday. “We are unfortunately only the latest entity to face this kind of incident.”

University officials declined to say whether the situation at Regis was a ransomeware attack, saying the matter is still under investigation.

Such cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common, with nearly two dozen Texas cities currently dealing with intrusions in which hackers have taken down or otherwise crippled computer systems while demanding ransom payments to restore them.

“At Regis, IT security is a top priority and one we do not take lightly,” the statement read. “We are working prudently and urgently to restore email, phone and other vital technology as soon as possible. It will be restored in stages in a systematic, careful manner.”

The “external data security threat” prompted Regis to yank down its technology services — including its website, phone lines, email services and online programs that students use to submit work and professors grade it. The Denver institution has been dealing with this disruption in the throes of wrapping up summer semester and welcoming fall students back to campus.

The university has since created a supplementary web page, regisupdates.com, to communicate to its community about the ongoing inconvenience.

On campus Friday — Day 2 of Regis’ information services being down — parents toted Clorox wipes and bookshelves as students moved into the dorms, many unaware of any technological problems. Leaves rustled in trees. A lawnmower groomed an athletic field. Families headed off to a freshman orientation. Nary the ping of an email notification was heard anywhere.

One Regis employee, hustling to an appointment with a briefcase and a stack of handwritten notes, called out that the downed system had been blissful — the most work she’d ever gotten done without the interruption of work email or other electronic distractions.

Others were less enthused.

Stephanie Linnet, a graduate student in Regis’ business program, has a final paper due at midnight that she’s now unable to turn in.

“If I don’t turn it in, is my professor going to be understanding?” Linnet asked. “It’s this uncertain feeling. Does he even know what’s going on? He’s not on Facebook looking up this stuff. He’s my grandfather’s age. I’ve already tried looking him up on LinkedIn, and he doesn’t have that. There has to be a timeline or a way for us to access our professors’ personal numbers so we know what to do. That sounds so silly. I don’t know. I’m just trying to figure out what to do.”

In a Facebook post, the university said no student would be penalized for a system issue and faculty would find alternative ways for assignments to be submitted and graded, or postponed.

The university fielded questions via its Facebook and Twitter account from students wondering how they were supposed to turn in their final summer assignments, others explaining that they were unable to log into their accounts to find the names of the textbooks they need before class starts on Monday, and still others asking whether the shutdown will impact when they receive their diplomas and credentials showing they completed their courses.

Meanwhile on campus, freshmen were in classes and many didn’t seem to know about the situation at all.

“You will not lose course credit,” the university said in one update. “We have prioritized restoring our online learning platform first, and are focusing all our energies on getting you into your classes. We will also accommodate the delays students may be experiencing opening their new courses.”

To receive the latest updates on the situation, those interested can sign up for text message updates by texting “Join RUAlert” to 30899.

 

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