‘Cyberattack’ shuts down virtual learning platform

London centre that hosts Moodle environment affected

May 21, 2015

A cyberattack on the University of London Computer Centre left millions of staff and students at 150 higher and further education institutions without access to their virtual learning environment this morning.

The attack also left numerous university and higher education sector websites down, including the Universities UK site, that of education technology provider Jisc and the European Library.

The ULCC hosts the Moodle virtual learning environment in universities across the UK. Among the universities tweeting that their services were affected were Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Warwick, Birkbeck, University of London and Queen Mary University of London.

Some three million registered Moodle users are hosted by the ULCC, and a spokesman for the centre confirmed that the “whole system” had been affected from around 7:30am to 11:45am, and that a “complete shutdown” had taken place.

The timing is problematic, since it is exam season at many universities – a time when many students need to access the online learning environment.

A statement from the ULCC, issued at midday, read: “All our services are now up and running again! The networking issue was caused by a cyber attack. We have taken action to block the source. An incident report will be produced and shared in due course.”

The spokesman said that the ULCC was unable to disclose specific details about the attack, although it is thought to have come from an institution in the UK.

A debrief will take place tomorrow, and further information about the attack and its affects will be published on the ULCC website.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Reader's comments (6)

150 institutions and millions of students affected? DId any of the IT manager's at those institutions think through the risk of making themselves dependent on such a vulnerable pinch-point? Seems like they simply adopted the herd mentality! ("Moodle good; everything else bad!")
"Moodle good; everything else bad!" From the information in the article (and elsewhere) this appears to be a network denial of service attack, nothing at all to do with Moodle. Criticising the choice of Moodle is like if the O2 phone service had an outage and people blamed the iPhone.
Isn't the issue here more to do with risk of 'clouding' services to a single point of failure. Moodle was not the issue here; the 'herd' mentality of outsourcing key student services is the issue.
Correct Marcus - not an attack on Moodle, but on the ULCC, which hosts Moodle for many UK universities across the UK.
"Isn't the issue here more to do with risk of 'clouding' services to a single point of failure. " I would agree with that. If you think of the word "cloud" as "someone elses computer", it gives a better idea of where the risk lies.
Someone probably just tried to upload more than 20MB of course notes in one go... ;-)

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Daniel Mitchell illustration (29 June 2017)

Academics who think they can do the work of professional staff better than professional staff themselves are not showing the kind of respect they expect from others

As the pay of BBC on-air talent is revealed, one academic comes clean about his salary

Senior academics at Teesside University put at risk of redundancy as summer break gets under way

Capsized woman and boat

Early career academics can be left to sink or swim when navigating the choppy waters of learning scholarly writing. Helen Sword says a more formal, communal approach can help everyone, especially women

Thorns and butterflies

Conditions that undermine the notion of scholarly vocation – relentless work, ubiquitous bureaucracy – can cause academics acute distress and spur them to quit, says Ruth Barcan