As NCCU looks to a full restoration, students will be able to see the applications that are available (in color) and the ones that are not (grey). Photo by Chris Frazier.

Entering the second week, NCCU begins to restore its applications

November 27, 2023

The work to fully restore N.C. Central University’s technological software enters its second week.

According to a recent email by Joel Faison, NCCU’s chief intelligence officer, a Nov. 12 phishing email provided the entry for the breach that brought the sloping hills and verdant green to a standstill. In that email, which was forwarded to faculty and staff by college deans, Faison stated: “That restoring our campus to 100 percent will take time and will not be complete during week two.”

Phishing is a cybersecurity attack where malicious actors pose as a trusted person or company and persuade victims to click a file, link, or provide details, resulting in access to critical information.

Information Technology Services initiated a campus-wide shutdown to counter the attack, partnering with the UNC System Office, the North Carolina Department of Information Technology, North Carolina’s Joint Cybersecurity Task Force, the FBI, and the U.S. Secret Service to start the investigation.

However, taking NCCU offline prevented faculty and students from accessing Canvas, EOL, and other online services.

Towards the end of last week,  some of NCCU’s online services returned from the fallout. On November 17, NCCU’s wireless network “Eagles-Guest” was accessible to the community, though not without some student body scrutiny.

NCCU’s main website has returned, as well as some EOL applications, including Banner 8. Non-functioning applications are greyed out at the EOL home page. Students can access their EBills and log their work-study hours. The Canvas app is available on the site and students’ phones. Get Connected, the software used by students to earn community hours, was colorful by Friday evening.

But some services remain unavailable. DegreeWorks, which students use to check their progress toward graduation, isn’t functional. On the eve of the opening of FAFSA applications, NCCU’s Scholarships’s tab is grey. Importantly, shared domains such as the O drive used by the Campus Echo and mass communication students are unavailable.

Also greyed out to faculty and staff are Eagles Purch, the university purchasing application, and Banner 9, the application where final grades are posted.

ITS plans to wipe and re-image all of NCCU’s computers. Starting this week, they ask faculty and students to save all necessary documents to an external drive, flash drive, OneDrive, or Google Drive.

In the meantime, they ask that faculty, but not students, change their passwords. Cybersecurity experts say that universities, often because of IT staffing challenges, typically have slower cyber attack recovery rates than the government or corporate sectors.

Forty percent of universities took on average over one full month to recover from a ransomware attack, but 9 percent of higher education institutions reported a recovery time of at least three months.

The situation is ongoing and the Campus Echo will provide updates when more information is made available.

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As NCCU looks to a full restoration, students will be able to see the applications that are available (in color) and the ones that are not (grey). Photo by Chris Frazier.
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As NCCU looks to a full restoration, students will be able to see the applications that are available (in color) and the ones that are not (grey). Photo by Chris Frazier.
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