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Update for Staff

All staff update (cascade) - 9 September

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to update you on the latest situation with regards to our ongoing IT issues. 

As you are already aware, as a result of a cyber incident, at present there is no access to any shared files, applications or data which have been switched off as a precautionary measure.

Our IT team is working round the clock and we hope to be in a position to provide a further update on access to some of our systems over the next few days. However, as I am sure you will understand, due to the complexities of stabilising and recovering our systems and services as safely as possible, we are unable to confirm a timeline on this.  

We advised on Monday that colleagues could now start to send email as normal and not just use it to receive updates.  You should be able to do this through Outlook in the usual way, or through a web browser going to https://www.office.com/ . However, we are aware that some colleagues are still unable to log into their emails, either through Outlook or a web browser.  We appreciate this is frustrating but are working to resolve this issue as a priority in the wider work to restore IT services for the University.

In the meantime, where possible, we have put in place workarounds to make sure that we are still able to engage with our students – both new and returning -  to enable students to enrol, and are now liaising directly with students who have CAS queries.

Due to lack of access to the Staff Recruitment Portal, colleagues are unable to apply for vacancies and we are unable to access applications already in the system.  In order to be able to progress with shortlisting and selection, colleagues are asked to submit their cv and covering letter to Careers at Northumbria using the vacancy reference number as the e-mail subject.  If you have recently applied for a role via the Staff Recruitment Portal, please re-submit your application via e-mail by midday on 14 September 2020.

 

We are continuing to update our web page incident web page with latest information and FAQs for staff and students. We are conscious that some of you are still unable to receive emails so we are posting all updates about this incident here, so please do monitor this page frequently.

I appreciate you will have concerns about this incident. Please rest assured we are working closely with our partner agencies whilst the investigation is progressing. This is a developing situation and we are committed to ensuring that you are all kept regularly updated as the investigation continues.

I appreciate how challenging this situation is for us all but I would encourage you to continue to prepare as best you can for our students returning and teaching to resume on 28th September. Please raise any specific issue with your line manager.

Thank you for your continued commitment and resilience through these challenging times. 

Best wishes

A message from Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive - 5 September

Dear Colleagues,

Further to my email on Monday 31 August, I wanted to update you in relation to the ongoing disruption to our IT systems.

This remains a serious incident and our immediate focus is twofold: stabilising the situation, so as to be able to recover the University’s systems and services as safely as possible, and maintaining business continuity. 

The investigation into the incident is still at an early stage. IT colleagues continue to work hard on the systems recovery plan, and to support Northumbria Police and the National Crime Agency with their enquiries.  However, we will not be able to share further detail on the incident until this initial investigation has concluded.  

 

Business Continuity

We are committed to ensuring that the University recommences full operations as swiftly as possible and we are prioritising key areas of our services. Your leadership team will be working with you on the implementation of local business continuity arrangements.

 

Campus Access

We can now confirm that we have taken the decision to continue to restrict access to campus next week (w/c 7 September). Access to campus will be limited to essential services only. This is both for safety and practical reasons, as colleagues will not be able to log on to systems and on-campus Wi-Fi is not widely available.   Access to campus for all other purposes must be supported by Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellors or Service Directors for approval at the Silver Critical Incident Team. Please do not come onto campus unless you are asked to do so or it is agreed by your manager. For colleagues who are on campus please do not attempt to turn on or reattach any network cables to PCs. These have been turned off and unplugged as a precautionary measure.

We will provide a further update by Friday 11 September regarding on campus access for week commencing 14 September.

 

Systems Access

There is no access currently to any shared files, applications, or data. These remain switched off as a precautionary measure.

You should still be able to access outlook. However, colleagues are asked not to send emails until we have concluded our assessment of the integrity of the system. We will continue to update you on email usage and will provide a further assessment on Monday 7 September. If you wish to contact colleagues between now and Monday, please use MS Teams.

In response to this incident, you may receive a message from some external stakeholders stating that they have temporarily blocked Northumbria emails as a precautionary measure. Please use a common sense approach in these cases and contact them where necessary by telephone.

We realise that some colleagues will be unable to carry out their duties without access to systems. Where appropriate your leadership team may ask you to support Services currently experiencing an increase in workload, such as Ask4Help.  Colleagues not directly dealing with the incident or related business continuity activity should take this opportunity to focus on work that can be done without systems access, using appropriate work-arounds. Academic colleagues should concentrate on preparing for the start of the academic year, and on those research activities that can be carried out without access to university systems. 

We will continue to update you on developments through email and our web page where you will find a copy of this update and frequently asked questions which we are updating on an ongoing basis. 

This is a challenging time for us all and I appreciate your continued support, hard work and patience.   Thank you for all that you are continuing to do for the University.

Best wishes,

 

Andrew

A message from Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive - 31 August

This message is being sent to all staff on behalf of Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware, we have been experiencing an ongoing IT issue which has caused significant operational disruption to the University.

We are now in a position to advise that we have been the victim of a cyber incident.

Since we became aware of the incident, we have been working with a group of external specialists who launched an investigation and also took immediate action in order to mitigate the impact. We have also informed the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) as well as Northumbria Police, and other regulatory bodies as appropriate.

The investigation is still at an early stage and we are only now in a position to provide you with this information.

We take the security of our system extremely seriously and were able to respond quickly to this incident. 

We invoked our full incident response plans on Friday and the incident management team is working to complete their assessment on the scope of the incident and to stabilise the situation, so as  to be able to recover the University’s  systems and services as safely as possible.    The aim is to do this as quickly as possible in order to minimise the impact on you, our students, and our partners.

Your health and safety, and that of our students, remain our number one priority.  In order to allow us to manage this incident we have taken the decision to limit campus usage for the remainder of this week to essential activity.

During this period, which we hope will be short, the following will apply:

Please do not come onto campus unless you are asked to or it is agreed by your manager, with the exception of Facilities and Estates operational colleagues in Security, FSA, Cleaning and Grounds teams and those who are supporting students who are living in our residences where services remain unaffected at this time.  Colleagues who are required to attend campus to carry out essential duties relating to health, safety and compliance and IT colleagues working on the incident will also be allowed on site.

There is no access currently to any shared files, applications or data. These have been switched off as a precautionary measure.

If you are currently working on a Northumbria laptop at home you should still able to log in and your Microsoft office (outlook, word, excel ppt etc) should still be working. However, please refrain from using outlook to send email but continue to monitor it, since we will use this channel to provide you with updates.

Microsoft teams should be available to you and you will be able to use this for calls, chats and information sharing.  If you are unable to log into Teams or outlook is not updating please do not worry at this stage. We will provide updates in due course.

I would ask you to remain vigilant, as you would normally, to any unsolicited communications. Please report anything of this nature to IT Service desk on 0191 227 4242.

I recognise this is a very challenging time for us all, and thank you in advance for your support on this matter. I and UE colleagues will continue to update you on developments as they happen.

Best wishes,

Andrew

 

 

Latest Staff FAQs

What has happened?

On Friday 28 August 2020, we became aware that the University had been the victim of a cyber incident which is causing operational disruption across our networks and IT systems.

What are we doing to fix it and how long will it take?

We invoked our full incident response plans on Friday 28 August and the incident management team is working to complete their assessment on the scope of the incident and to stabilise the situation, so as to be able to recover the University’s systems and services as safely as possible.  

The aim is to do this as quickly as possible in order to minimise the impact on you, our students, and our partners.

At this point, it is not possible to give a timeline on when this will be resolved.  We will be providing updates throughout the course of our ongoing investigation, and as soon as we have further information, we will provide an update.

Please keep monitoring your email if accessible, this webpage, and our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

What systems can I/can’t I use?

We are pleased to confirm that we have now restored access to Blackboard and Panopto. You will be able to log in as normal and access your files to support your preparation for the start of the academic year.

Colleagues can now also use outlook as normal to send and receive emails. We are aware that some of you have had continued issues accessing email either via Outlook or at http://outlook.office365.com/, however we can confirm that this has now been resolved. If you are still struggling to connect, in the first instance please restart your machine.  If you are still experiencing problems please contact the IT Service Desk via chat (northumbria.ac.uk/itchat or 0191 227 4242.

We are working hard to restore other systems however due to the complexities involved in stabilising and recovering our systems and services as safely as possible, this will be a gradual process and we are currently unable to confirm a timeline on this. We will update you as and when we are able to restore but would kindly ask that you wait for those notifications and refrain from trying to access systems that are switched off as this may slow down our progress.

When using emails please remember to be vigilant with any emails they may receive and below is a reminder of some of the things to look out for:

Spot the mistakes…

If you look at the message, you may see it has several mistakes; these mistakes may indicate the email is suspicious.  Here’s a handy guide to spotting them:

1. The link doesn’t go to any website at Northumbria

The email asks you to click a link to login somewhere, however, if you hover over it with your mouse (without clicking), you’ll see it goes to somewhere totally different.

2. The sender isn’t from IT Services or anyone at Northumbria

If you look at the top of the message, you can often spot that it’s actually coming from someone not at Northumbria University at all.  This is an important one to check if you receive an email from someone you don’t know, or which looks suspicious.

3. The appearance is all wrong

It seems a small thing, but the appearance of a message can tell a lot; if the formatting, fonts, and spelling are wrong, then the message may not be genuine.  Often Phishing emails misspell certain keywords so that they are not blocked by our tools. 

4. Personal Details

Be careful about emails asking you for personal details.

This guide isn’t definitive, so please remember that, if an email looks ‘odd’, is asking you for specific information or is from someone you don’t recognise, it’s worth quickly checking with the Service Desk.  Do not follow the link or reply to the message in any way if you are not sure.

Is it safe for me to use Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams should be available to you and you will be able to use this for calls, chats and information sharing.  If you are unable to log into Teams or outlook (including via https://outlook.office365.com/) contact the IT Service Desk via chat (www.northumbria.ac.uk/itchat or 0191 227 4242. For those colleagues who have already contacted service desk, please be assured we are working as fast as we can to try and rectify the log in issues.

How will I receive updates from the University?

We will continue to update this page and provide updates via email.

Has any of my data or information been compromised?

The investigation is still at an early stage and it is not yet possible to provide any further information.

Can I go onto campus to work?

Restricted access to campus will continue next week (w/c 7 September). Access to campus will be limited to essential services only.

This is both for safety and practical reasons, as colleagues will not be able to log on to systems and on-campus Wi-Fi is not widely available.   Access to campus for all other purposes must be supported by Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellors or Service Directors for approval at the Silver Critical Incident Team. Please do not come onto campus unless you are asked to do so or it is agreed by your manager. For colleagues who are on campus please do not attempt to turn on or reattach any network cables to PCs. These have been turned off and unplugged as a precautionary measure.

Where can I direct students to for more information?

Students can access FAQs through this webpage, and these are being updated as more information becomes available.

I can’t do large elements of my job or I have a project deadline – what should I do?

We realise that some colleagues will not be able to carry out their duties without access to systems.  We may ask you to support another service which is experiencing an increase in workload due to the disruption to IT systems.  You may also take this opportunity to prepare for your PDA and think about your 2020/21 objectives.

If you have a project deadline please discuss this with your manager to agree a revised timescale for completion.

Will any of my work be lost?

The investigation is still at an early stage and it is yet not possible for us to answer this question at this time.

I have work saved on Citrix – will this be lost?

The investigation is still at an early stage and it is not yet possible for us to answer this question at this time.

Will payroll be affected?

We have contingency plans in place for payroll should systems remain unavailable.  

Should I contact my research partners or funders?

RIS are in the process of contacting research partners and funders, and will keep them updated as the situation changes. As such please do not contact your partners or funders directly to discuss the cyber incident at this time. If there is a specific deadline approaching or a need to prioritise contact to your partner/funder please contact your post award coordinator in RIS.

Can I access Blackboard U Drive or Drop Box?

We are pleased to confirm that we have now restored access to Blackboard and Panopto. You will be able to log in as normal and access your files to support your preparation for the start of the academic year.

Whilst we continue to investigate the IT incident reported earlier this week, we have currently disabled access to Drop Box as a precautionary measure. We are working to restore access as soon as possible and we will update you straightaway when these systems are available. In the meantime, please continue to save items to your desktop and they can be uploaded at a later date.

Will On-Line Teaching Be available?

We are pleased to confirm that we have now restored access to Blackboard and Panopto. You will be able to log in as normal and access your files to support your preparation for the start of the academic year. We are also working to ensure on-campus sessions will be delivered from the 28th September. We will continue to keep you updated.

Will Classroom Technology be available?

We are prioritising access to learning resources and technology, however, in the event of continued disruption classroom sessions may need to rely on teaching and learning activity which does not include the use of technologies such as PC and projection.  We will continue to keep you updated.

When will Timetables be available?

We’re working on your timetable for this year and will provide you with them in the week commencing 21 September – thank you for your ongoing patience.

How should I be preparing for my semester one teaching?

We are pleased to confirm that we have now restored access to Blackboard and Panopto. You will be able to log in as normal and access your files to support your preparation for the start of the academic year.

You can access common Microsoft packages via your Office365 login at www.office.com - The TEL team are also available to support if you have any queries - Please contact your Faculty TEL lead.  When creating new materials please save items to your desktop and they can be uploaded at a later date.

How do I contact HR while AskHR is unavailable?

If you would like to request a period of leave or report sickness, please discuss this with your manager in the first instance and keep a local record so you can update MyHR when the system is back up and running.

For other HR queries please contact HR via email directing your query to the appropriate mailbox:

I want to apply for a vacancy but unable to access the staff recruitment portal what should I do?

The staff recruitment portal is currently unavailable.  If you wish to apply for a vacancy please let us know by contacting HR at staff.careers@northumbria.ac.uk.

I applied for a vacancy but have not been advised of the outcome of my application what should I do?

The staff recruitment portal is currently unavailable.  If you have applied for a vacancy but have not been advised of the outcome please contact HR at staff.careers@northumbria.ac.uk

I am in the process of recruiting a new member of staff how do I find out the status of my vacancy?

You will be contacted by your HR Administrator to discuss the status of your vacancy.

If your vacancy closed on or after 28 August some applicants may not have been able to apply using the ‘apply now’ button.  We have reached out to applicants via Staff FAQs and social media to let them know how to get in touch if they wish to apply for a vacancy, or if they have submitted an application but have not heard back from us.

If you have received applications direct, please keep hold of them and do not forward them on at this time.

There is currently no access to applications in the staff recruitment portal to allow shortlisting to take place. If you have an urgent need to fill your vacancy please contact your HR Manager to discuss alternative options. 

If you have a selection event scheduled you are encouraged to go ahead with this as planned.  As you will not be able to carry out online scoring or progress offers via the portal, your HR Administrator will provide you with the templates to enable you to do this manually.

 

If you are ready to make an offer please let your HR Administrator know.  We will contact the candidate to obtain relevant information to carry out pre-employment checks and will make the offer in writing.  You may wish to consider delaying the start date, where it is possible to do so, given the current restrictions we have on access to systems. 

Can I advertise a vacancy at this time?

We cannot advertise vacancies using the recruitment portal at this time.  If you have an urgent need to fill your vacancy please contact your HR Manager to discuss alternative options.

How can I access people policies and procedures at this time?

Unfortunately policies and procedures can’t be accessed at this time therefore please contact your HR Manager who will advise you accordingly. 

How can I engage an agency temp and approve timesheets?

Agency temps can continue to be engaged in the normal way. This includes being able to approve timesheets. 


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