A nationwide cyber attack left Leeds University without internet earlier this week, preventing students from submitting work.
This happened due to Janet, the organisation which provides the university’s computer network, being hacked.
Jisc, the network operator for Janet, has said that the network was subjected to Distributed denial of service attacks (DDOS).
The IT Service Desk at Leeds are currently treating the issue as an “incident”. Leeds is one of the many universities affected, with Manchester and Sheffield University also suffering similar problems. Students at Sheffield University received an email from the Director of CICS assuring them that Janet engineers were attempting to “resolve the issues as soon as possible”.
Andrew Smith, a senior lecturer in computer networking at The Open University, said that “In straightforward terms, attackers have lined up an army of malware compromised computers and have primed them to attack Janet,”
He added that “Janet is used by many universities and colleges in the UK. While our security is good, having thousands of computers around the world all sending useless data to one system will flood it and will slow it down.
“Each compromised computer will send a small amount of data, nothing that you would notice and normally in keeping with the typical internet traffic behaviour expected by your broadband provider. However, when this is multiplied by tens, hundreds and thousands of computers – the deluge becomes unmanageable as this restricts our ability to receive internet traffic which would also come in via the same connection.”
Jisc posted reassurance on their Facebook page, stressing that their “network and security teams continue to work hard to minimise any impact to […] customers.” They added that as part of their long term strategy they were “already reviewing and improving our systems so that we can reduce the impact of any future attempts on service delivery for our customers.”