The University of Michigan has been without full internet access for two days after staff shut the school’s connections down in response to a “significant [cyber]security concern” on the eve of the new school year.
The internet shutdown affected campus IT systems used for research and fundraising, and could delay financial aid reimbursements, the university said Monday.
Campus computers are generally cut off from the public internet, but students were finding workarounds via their cell phones. An updated statement Tuesday afternoon said staff had made progress in helping students access resources from off-campus computer networks, but that the recovery was ongoing.
The school, which has about 50,000 students at its flagship Ann Arbor campus, acknowledged the “major inconvenience” the internet outage caused at the start of the school year.
“The loss of internet access and other business functions across the University of Michigan community cast an unfortunate cloud over an otherwise sunny and glorious start to the academic year,” University of Michigan President Santa Ono said in a statement.
Katherine Kiessling, a University of Michigan senior majoring in dance and computer engineering, said she has had trouble accessing lecture materials online because of the internet outage, which has forced her to return to her off-campus apartment to get work done between classes.
“I’m expecting that I’m going to have to come back to my apartment to get any work done this week,” Kiessling told CNN on Tuesday.
The cause of the outage was unclear. The university’s statements suggested malicious cyber activity was to blame. A university spokesperson, Kim Broekhuizen, said they did not have additional information to share beyond the public statements made by the university.
The incident comes weeks after the White House held a high-profile meeting with K-12 school administrators highlighting the need to protect schools against ransomware and other hacks ahead of the new school year.
While primary school and secondary schools are often short on resources to defend themselves, cybercriminals have also hampered universities big and small.
Lincoln College, a predominantly Black institution in central Illinois, was forced to close permanently last year after a cyberattack and the coronavirus pandemic crippled its finances.
This story has been updated with additional information.