Internet network security issues at California State University, Stanislaus has forced the institution to be without internet for over a week, causing several issues with campus operations, including the cancellation of classes. According to the school, the network was restored Thursday, but campus community members are being asked to take additional measures to ensure security.
Issues with the campus networks were first detected by the school’s Office of Information Technology on Feb. 16. According to Dr. Rosalee Rush, Senior VP for Communications, Marketing & Media Relations at Stan State, access to campus systems like Zoom, Canvas, Google Classroom and Microsoft Office 365 were suspended, as well as all classes being cancelled on Feb. 17.
“Stanislaus State detected a service disruption that required us to temporarily take certain computer systems offline,” Rush said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the campus network was isolated and shut down, halting incoming and outgoing network activity to investigate and discern the cause of the incident.”
After the weekend, in-person classes were allowed to resume, but the lack of internet on campuses led many professors and school services to keep their operations suspended. A week of no classes or resources is something that has frustrated students, faculty and staff, especially since many of the suspended online systems like Canvas and Google Classroom are used to communicate between professors and students and assign and submit work.
One professor, who asked to stay anonymous, explained that he teaches both online-only and hybrid courses. With no classroom assigned to him for some courses and many of his students learning remotely, he felt as if he had no other option but to wait out the shutdown.
“I could definitely teach in the hybrid classes, but with Zoom being gone and students not being able to access Internet on campus, there’s not much I could do. And if students need to submit work to me from last week or weeks before, I can’t expect all of them to drop stuff off at my office. That’s just not what they sign up for with these remote and hybrid courses. They may not even get the work done because they can’t do any research without Internet or the hotspots,” he said.
Instruction and class assignment due dates aren’t the only things impacting students, as this past week were also regularly scheduled tuition and financial aid due dates, scholarship deadlines and the census date.
Stan State’s census date, which is the last day to add or drop classes and change grading options, has been extended to Feb. 28. Tuition fees that were supposed to be paid by Feb. 17 or March 17 now have until March 27 at 5 p.m. As for the Stan State Scholarship, the application deadline has been extended to March 10.
Now that network security has been deemed safe and secure and has been restored, the university is asking that campus community members to reboot on-campus devices and reset their MyStanState passwords.
“… We have confirmed that our campus systems are safe to begin bringing back online,” the University said in a campus-wide email sent on Thursday morning. “The first step in this process is to improve our University’s security posture by having all faculty, staff and students reboot their on-campus computers and reset their Warrior password.”
Though campus operations and deadlines were at the forefront of concerns for several campus community members, Stan State student Nicholas Huerta now wants more answers surrounding online security.
Huerta, a senior majoring in Communication Studies, is particularly upset at the fact that the school did not inform campus community members that the outage was due to an apparent security breach, instead describing the matter as “technical difficulties” and “intermittent network outages.” The first mention of unusual activity was in a Feb. 23 email, an entire week after the issues first arose.
“I think they should have been a little bit more transparent with us in regards to what really happened. I mean, we all worked in the COVID environment, the post-COVID environment of working from home remotely, so we know things like this happen. Security breaches happen more often than not. I just wish they were a little bit more open to us and telling us exactly what did happen, because if it was just a disruption, the disruption doesn't take that long to get your network back up and running,” Huerta said.
He believes that the email asking for device reboots and password resets proves that personal information may have been leaked.
“It tells me that we basically all lost our personal information to who knows who, and it only confirmed it that we have to actually go into campus now, bring an ID and change our password,” Huerta said.
The school, however, has not released any notice or warning regarding any personal information being stolen, and that there is currently an investigation underway into the unusual network activity.
“The investigation of this disruption is ongoing, and we are focused on restoring our systems as securely as possible,” Rush said.
As for resetting passwords, the process is becoming an entirely different issue in itself, with over 12,000 passwords needing to be reset between students, staff and faculty. Not only that, but the passwords and account enabling must be done in-person only, with the help of OIT staff. OIT has been restoring access since Thursday afternoon and will continue to do so from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Vasché Library OIT Technology Support Center.
“I’m not sure what happens next and I’m not sure anybody else does, because 12,000 passwords needing to be reset and it all needing to be on-campus is such an inconvenience for everyone,” Huerta said. “I’m not sure this is going to be an easy fix, so we’ll just keep waiting.”