B.C.'s Okanagan College warns of potential privacy breach after cyber attack

A cyber attack and the ensuing network shutdown Monday morning have left nearly 16,000 students and staff at Okanagan College unable to access campus network services. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)
A cyber attack and the ensuing network shutdown Monday morning have left nearly 16,000 students and staff at Okanagan College unable to access campus network services. (Winston Szeto/CBC - image credit)

Nearly 16,000 students and 1,200 staff at a B.C. Okanagan college came under cyber attack earlier this week and are still unable to access campus network services.

In a written statement Wednesday, Okanagan College president Neil Fassina said the institution's information technology services team uncovered a cyber security attack on Monday at around 6:15 a.m. while conducting routine surveillance.

Fassina said the attack launched by an "unrecognized external agent" had forced the IT services team to shut down and disable network access across all Okanagan College campuses located in Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and Salmon Arm.

He said the team is investigating the incident with the help of outside cybersecurity experts, but campus network services had not been restored as of Wednesday morning.

"The outage has impacted our public website and learning management site Moodle. It has impacted our ability to send user emails to our students and staff."

Fassina said the college is working hard to restore secure access to campus network services as soon as possible but couldn't say how long the system would be down.

He said it is also trying to determine whether personal information was compromised.

In the meantime, the college is advising students and staff to take these measures to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud:

  • Remain vigilant to unusual emails or text messages that claim to be from the Okanagan College and unexpectedly ask for personal information.

  • Avoid sending personal information unless confident the communication is authentic.

  • Avoid responding to unsolicited requests for financial information.

  • Be aware of unauthorized transactions related to an individual's financial accounts.