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Online Learning of University of Hertfordshire Disrupted Due to a Major Cyber-Attack

 

By now it's a well-known fact that most of the students are relying on online learning and video-conferencing apps due to the ongoing global pandemic, the University of Hertfordshire in the UK has suffered a major cyber-attack that has eventually disrupted its online learning. 

According to a ZDNet report, the cyber-attack has affected all of its IT systems, including Office 365, Teams and Zoom, local networks, Wi-Fi, email, data storage, and VPN. The university reported the hit by attackers on Wednesday, resulting in the cancellation of all online classes on Thursday and Friday. 

“As a result, all online teaching will be canceled today (Thursday 15 April), and we understand that this may impact students being able to submit assignments. We want to reassure our students that no one will be disadvantaged as a consequence of this. Any in-person, on-campus teaching may still continue today, if computer access is not required, but students will have no on-site or remote access to computer facilities in the LRCs [learning resource centres], labs or the university Wi-Fi. We apologize for the inconvenience this situation has caused and will continue to keep you updated,” the university spokesperson stated.

However, the University of Hertfordshire had not formally disclosed the nature of the attack, or even whether it had been hit by ransomware. Unfortunately, there has been a sharp rise in ransomware attacks targeting academic institutions – both schools and universities in the last year, partly as a result of additional vulnerabilities brought about by the shift to online learning during COVID-19. Last year in the UK, Newcastle and Northumbria Universities experienced ransomware incidents, causing significant disruption.

Jérôme Robert, director at Alsid, said universities are starting to become aware that they are prime targets. “The sheer size of the student and faculty at a university – in Hertfordshire’s case nearly 28,000 people – makes it incredibly difficult to secure and manage the IT estate,” he added. 

“Think of the huge volume of new joiners and leavers each year at universities. IT teams somehow have to manage that process of creating, deleting, and managing all those accounts. It’s a never-ending operation to keep all of that neat and tidy, and any oversights, such as old accounts not being closed down, present risk. On top of this, higher education is currently at heightened risk because of the increase of network activity and general complexity of enabling hybrid learning,” he further told.

Universities Switch to Online Learning but Is it Enough?


With there being no apparent end in view of the pandemic, everyone has been forced to live within a confined space and spend their days not doing anything that needs going out.

Especially students all over the world are having a hard time managing things without the actual physical classes to dote on. Not that online lectures and a virtual education aren’t lucrative but most students find a lack of motivation a common problem.

With the dearth of options, available students are managing to adjust to the online learning life given most institutions have switched to various online mediums like Zoom, which is a great step, globally.

Universities are trying their best to make do with all the possible resources they have at their disposal. But is it okay to consider that online classes shall suffice?

What the students need at such a gloomy time is a way to make education and learning which could provide them technologically rich experience and not just a mere imitation of what otherwise happens in their classes.

The tech-world is overflowing with contemporary ideas of learning. There are hundreds of ways to create and design interactive sessions via podcasts, and virtual reality. Students, from the comfort of their homes, could be better learners if they encourage the right way and could induce better responses.

Online learning or online lectures shouldn’t just be a professor, going on and on for hours like in a physical class. There is such a variety of avenues to follow when it comes to technology-based learning that too, online.


During the past months, the number of students enrolled in online courses has increased substantially. There has also been a rise in the number of students joining full-time online courses.

People who weren’t as tech-savvy as all that lost their jobs and had to get back to studying for any possible chances of a career change.

Per sources, FutureLearn and UofPeople(University of People) have experienced a hike in demand for online courses because of people wanting to be productive in the days of quarantine by acquiring new skills.

According to reports, there has been seen a significant rise in the demand for online courses for the English language, health-related subjects, and mental health topics.

This culture of interactive online learning if does not limit itself to the pandemic times could lead to a better learning mechanism that would prove to be extremely efficacious for students all across the globe.

The availability of online platforms for students to begin or continue their education is massively contributing to lessening the number of chances of students deferring.

Even though the initial online courses that went and probably still do, by the name Moocs (Massive open online courses) weren’t so much of a big hit, but given the times of the “pandemic induced confinement”, people are warming up to them.

The current predicament has everyone bursting with uncertainty. There is no telling if universities would even begin their next sessions any time soon.

Everything can’t certainly be taught online, especially practical-learning which prompts a huge question mark to which no one has the right answer.

Realizing that there is no way to know when the universities would open and commence their normal operations with the added factor of social distancing, ‘the internet is all we have.'