[9.1.2023] Restoration of the IT infrastructure

The University of Duisburg-Essen after the cyberattack.

The restoration of the University of Duisburg-Essen’s (UDE) digital infrastructure is making progress following the cyberattack that took place at the end of November. Although University operations are not yet back to normal, many digital services are available again.
The incident on 27 November last year created a complex situation with regard to damage. Amongst other things, the attackers encrypted 1,200 virtual servers and compromised the central system for allocating access rights.

Photocreo Bednarek – stock.adobe.com

Parallel tasks

Since various systems were closely connected to each other within the University’s IT infrastructure and individual elements were affected to varying degrees, over the last weeks numerous different fields of action have been identified, priorities defined and the resulting tasks worked on simultaneously by different teams – in the Centre for Information and Media Services (ZIM), in established specialist academic departments, within the University’s administration and by IT staff in the faculties and research centres.

Surveys, data checks, the forensic examination of the attack and the reconstruction or restoration of the systems began immediately and have since been running in parallel to the deployment of temporary emergency solutions or work-arounds. At first, quick solutions were found for those areas in particular where studying, teaching, ongoing work for assessment and administrative operations needed to be ensured. For example, making learning platforms such as Moodle accessible again was a priority – initially only from within the UDE network, but then also externally. It was also made possible to access email and telephone services again before Christmas. In a very short time, the password reset could be implemented for almost 40,000 people. In addition, extremely large quantities of data have been checked to establish whether they were intact, available or recoverable.  

Priority: securely restoring systems

The reconstruction of the Active Directory service is of utmost importance for the University to be able to resume digital operations. Only by doing so can access rights be assigned. Active Directory and identity management are necessary for secure IT operations, to manage user groups and to set up services and structures. The Active Directory is needed so that our data can be used: both the data that was not lost and the data that could be recovered. It will therefore still take some time before this data can be accessed.

‘At this stage and in all subsequent steps, our focus is on further increasing the current security standards’, says Pedro José Marrón, the Vice-Rector for Transfer, Innovation and Digitalisation. ‘That’s why we have to take the time needed to ensure the highest possible level of security.’

Studying: organisation, applications and enrolment

A key point for teaching and learning is that around 29,000 students have regained access to the learning platform Moodle since the password reset, even from off campus. On campus, they can use the information system for teaching and learning (LSF) and, above all, the self-service functions of the HISinOne university portal. They can register for or withdraw from examinations and download proof of enrolment, the semester ticket or a transcript of records.

Students and staff members who still need to reset their password can do so on workstations around the ePoints in the libraries.

Examinations at the end of the winter semester will be able to take place as planned. The Examinations Office can be reached using the usual email addresses and telephone numbers and is also offering consultation hours in person.

Students who are planning a stay abroad in Europe in the winter semester 2023/24 or the summer semester 2024 can apply for a place at one of UDE’s Erasmus partner universities until 31 January.

The application period for master’s programmes with admission restrictions for the summer semester 2023 has been extended until 31 January. Applications for bachelor’s degree programmes with admission restrictions can be submitted until 15 January. If you wish to pursue a course of study without admission restrictions, you can enrol without applying or previously making an appointment: you can find the relevant consultation hours and contact details here.

If you have any further questions about studying, please contact the Infoline team. They can be reached by phone (+49 203 379 1800 and +49 201 183 4949) or by email (infoline@uni-due.org) during their service hours (Monday to Friday between 9 am and 5 pm).

We will continue to keep you informed on this website about further developments in restoring our IT systems, the availability of data and matters relating to research, studies and many more.