On February 28 Millersville University was the target of a cyberattack on their network. In the wake of the attack several services went down, and both virtual and in person classes were cancelled the following day. The Office of the President has kept the community informed on the matter. The University engaged with law enforcement and global security experts in conducting a forensic investigation into the nature of the attack. Due to the delicate and ongoing nature of the investigation, they have been unable to share every detail.
There is no evidence that the University is at fault for this intrusion, and according to The Office of Technology, industry standard protocols were in place and continue to be followed. An update on March 17 from The Office of the President indicated that “personal information from a handful of individuals has been disclosed” and that they will be notified and provided resources in accordance with Pennsylvania state law.
The network outage caused campus Wi-Fi and other services to be inaccessible which has had several impacts. Registration for the summer and fall semesters has been delayed. The Counseling Center which has seen a large uptick in students needing counseling during the pandemic, has been heavily impacted by the outage. Their ability to access medical records and scheduling software has disrupted their services. Similarly, Health Services has been increasingly using telemedicine during the pandemic and unreliable access to Wi-Fi has impacted their offices.
On a more individual level, many students have been introduced to hardship within their classes. Classes relying on software and labs on campus were pushed further behind than others. One student, Emily Bridges comments, “I’m learning three different software in my classes and we couldn’t do our work for two weeks. Now we’re behind and the professor wants the work done ASAP. I’ve been staying up late to catch up.” Another student in the education program, Emily Livingston, was affected by the delayed registration stating, “I kind of need to be registered so I can find out where I’m student teaching and doing ProBlock.”
This past year has been one of upheaval and struggle within higher education. Students have had to adjust to online learning and the world as a whole has become more reliant on technology, so an attack affecting their ability to access technology is understandably frustrating. The Office of the President shared a sentiment of regret that the community has been put through this inconvenience, but let the community know that “it is important to recognize that we are the victim of a crime. Millersville receives 9 million cyber intrusion attempts daily. We use many layers of security to protect our networks and systems including anti-virus, firewalls, and application scanning, as well as proactively monitoring for vulnerabilities and suspicious activity. However, no system is 100 percent secure.”
Furthermore, the office informed the community that they are in the midst of a strategic technology plan to enhance the network’s security, systems, and data. This attack came at an unfortunate time in this 2-year plan’s process. As the University IT department works to restore the network, they continue to incorporate these security enhancements to help prevent an attack like this from being successful in the future.