In the early hours of Thursday, October 21st, a confirmed ransomware attack crippled Gordon College’s internet infrastructure, phone lines, and nearly all of its various websites—including Gordon.edu, My.Gordon.edu, 360.Gordon.edu, and for a time, Canvas.Gordon.edu. This prevented students from using campus Wi-fi, completing wellness checks, accessing crucial course information, and even submitting their student timesheets for on-campus jobs.
Needless to say, the loss of nearly all college websites has caused a great deal of disruption on campus. Some professors cancelled classes or postponed assignments in response to the attack, and work has backed up in many courses, to the frustration (or elation, depending on who you ask) of students. One three-hour lab took an emergency field trip to Panera Bread in order to ensure access to Wi-Fi crucial to the course assignment.
The college’s technology services team has been working day and night to repair the system, doing what they can to remove the virus from campus and the college’s many websites. In an email to the student body, President Hammond stated that “The CTS [Center for Technology Services] team continues to work diligently with third-party computer specialists to investigate the source of this disruption, confirm its full impact on our systems, and then work to restore functionality to our systems and network as soon as possible.”
On Saturday October 23rd, the team was able to set up a temporary wi-fi network for campus, and
Canvas.Gordon.edu gained functional access again on Sunday, October 24th.
When asked how the outage has affected his work at the college, English Department Chair Dr. Chad Stutz, commented.
“The outage has definitely affected ‘business-as-usual.’ Some of my students have found it difficult to complete their assignments without access to resources like the library databases, while even simple things like emails have proven challenging. At the same time, I’ve been impressed with people’s adaptability and their capacity for finding creative workarounds.”
On Monday October 26th, Jenks Library staff shared a link to a temporary library homepage with access to important academic resources, available at https://library.gordon.edu while the official site remains down.
The outage has affected many aspects of campus life and administration, but some offices have been less impacted than others. The Admissions department commented on the impact the outage had on admissions.
“[We are] actually functioning quite well.… The Admissions recruitment software, Slate, is in the Cloud, as is email, and those are the primary tools we use on a day-to-day basis. Also, Slate has the ability to call, text, and email. And while the network outage did cause staff to work from home for a couple of days, this is something that we are all very comfortable doing. The admissions counselors are used to working while traveling and we all got a lot of practice working remotely during the pandemic. CTS was amazing in finding a work-around for our phone systems, so we are able to get incoming calls and CTS.… [We] are very, very grateful for our CTS colleagues for all of the work they are doing to restore the campus fully.”
Others, like Gordon student Michael Xiao, have had a less-pleasant experience this semester. “Gordon is falling apart…. The campus is seriously in such bad shape that Jesus could drop down from the sky at this very moment and I wouldn’t even be phased.”
Josiah Kangas, another student asked to comment on the outage, said simply: “It’s hard to do Internet Programming homework.” That seems to be the common sentiment across departments: it’s hard to do things.
For a time, Gordon360 was functional only for wellness checks. It has since been fixed to show updated meal plan and CL&W credit statistics. Students have regained normal access Dining Services on campus, and the temporary Wi-fi continues to hold campus together. Course registration was postponed from November 8th to the 15th due to the network issues with my.gordon functional for academic planning and registration.
In an email to the student body on November 19th, President Hammond stated,
“I can confirm that the incident was an unsuccessful ransomware attempt by an unauthorized third party who encrypted some of our systems. Fortunately, due to the great work of CTS and the security measures we have in place, we have been able to restore our systems from viable backups. We also remain grateful that the investigation to date has found no evidence to suggest that any sensitive data was compromised by the outside party who gained access to our networks.”
With the diligent work of the CTS team and external partners, Gordon has completed a significant amount of restoration to our systems. Moving forward, the college intends on ensuring the security of our systems by working with third-party cybersecurity experts to review and enhance our protocols and processes.
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