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Northumbria University cyberattack

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The ongoing Northumbria University cyberattack is a cause for concern and has already led to a significant amount of distribution for students.

We understand that the situation remains ongoing as the university tries to fix the problems that have arisen from the cyberattack. It looks like this may be a ransomware attack, and it remains unknown as to whether any information has been exposed so far.

If data does end up being exposed, victims whose personal information is affected may need our legal advice and representation.

What we know so far

The Northumbria University cyberattack is understood to be an ongoing incident that looks to be a ransomware type of attack. We suspect that this is the case because the attack appears to have led to systems being taken offline whilst the university and IT assistants try to fix the problem, which could reportedly take weeks. This suggests that the cyberattack may be a case of systems and files being encrypted by hackers who are then demanding a ransom for the files and systems to be released.

This is an incredibly common type of attack that can bring whole organisations to a standstill. We the impact of this kind of event with the massive 2017 WannaCry attack that caused crippling damage to NHS services.

In the case of the Northumbria University cyberattack, students have been unable to use vital services such as Blackboard and student portals. Further, exams have had to be rescheduled, and the university has been unable to take calls or enquiries about clearing as well.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is understood to be aware of the incident, with the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne campus being closed down in response to the attack. News of this cyberattack comes just weeks after several universities have been affected by the massive Blackbaud attack, which we represent clients for.

Impact and risks of the Northumbria University cyberattack

It is hard to know at this stage what the risks are that arise from the Northumbria University cyberattack. We do not yet know if information has been leaked or exposed, and we do not yet know whether or not the incident can be contained.

What we can say, from previous experience, is that criminals could intentionally leak or sell information that does end up being exposed. Universities and higher education institutions are targets for criminals, given how much information these organisations store and process. Data for a single student could include personal information, financial details, and payment card data for fees, and even sensitive medical and domestic data for meeting the needs of the student. In the wrong hands, this information could be abused and could cause serious harm for the victims.

State-sponsored attacks are also said to occur against such institutions, as they often hold a great deal of research data as well.

What can people do if information is exposed or misused?

If any personal information for anyone at the university ends up being exposed, we may be able to investigate claims for data breach compensation. We do not yet know if this is the case or not, but we continue to keep a close eye on developments.

This is a significant amount of disruption to have to deal with at a time when there has already been so much disruption and chaos caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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