IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Possible Cyber Threats Take 5 Louisiana Colleges Offline

Students and staff are expressing frustration while Louisiana State Police and the governor's office investigate possible cyber threats that prompted a handful of colleges to shut down their Internet services.

A digital rendering of a laptop with a red padlock on the screen.
(TNS) — Two days after the University of New Orleans announced a campuswide Internet shutdown in response to a possible threat to their cybersecurity system, students and staff are expressing frustration over a lack of answers.

On Friday, the university announced that it and four other colleges — River Parishes Community College, Southern University at Shreveport, LSU Agricultural Center and Nunez Community College — would be working "diligently to restore network services soon."

Louisiana State Police and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness are assisting the schools in the investigation. State police issued a statement saying the universities took action after its Cyber Crime Unit "found potential indicators of compromise within the networks."

"We can't do anything," said Sergeant Lawrence Hingle of UNO campus police. "We communicate through email. All of our computers are down," he said.

UNO relayed the news after 6 p.m. Friday evening and said it would provide updates via social media and Privateer alerts, but the school community is raising questions about possible compromises to personal and financial information.

"I wish they'd be more direct," said Shelby Oliver, a graduate student in the sociology department. Oliver said that although not being able to communicate with all of her instructors is worrisome, she's mostly concerned about what type of information has been threatened to trigger the response.

State police said "more information may be forthcoming when all forensic investigative efforts are complete."

Most recently, Southeastern University in Hammond was the latest victim of an Internet shutdown triggered by what security experts said was likely criminal activity prompting Louisiana State Police involvement. In that case, the school's network was down for three weeks.

In November, students and faculty at Xavier University of New Orleans had personal information stolen.

Kathryn Huff, UNO's finance instructor, said all her students have her personal phone number and the first thing she'll do Monday morning is collect alternative email addresses to use while the email network is down.

Students will have to submit paper copies of their work for now, rather than uploading it to Moodle, the popular education platform used to access recorded lectures and monitor grades.

In addition to potential exposure of personal records, Huff hopes she and others quickly regain access to their research and papers loaded into the system over the years.

Nunez Community College spokesperson, Jason Browne, said classes will meet remotely Monday, but the school anticipates a return to normal operations by Tuesday.

©2023 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.