University of Saskatchewan hit with cyberattack

The University of Saskatchewan was the target of an online denial of service (DoS) attack, becoming the second institution in the province to be hit by cybercrime in as many months.

DoS attacks involve an online perpetrator using a system of computers to overload the system with requests, causing it to crash.

"USask IT security continually monitors our IT services to detect threats and reduce the risk to members of the university community," the University of Saskatchewan said in a statement.

"In this instance we were able to detect the threat and isolate the potential for an attack."

The U of S noted it continues to introduce new security features "to keep pace with the rapidly changing security environment."

Asked what the overall effect of the attack was, the school said the statement is the only comment it would be providing.

This is the second institution that has been the aim of cyber criminals in Saskatchewan in recent months. eHealth Saskatchewan announced it has been the subject of a ransomware attack in early January.

Data contained in eHealth was thought to be protected, but the organization recently confirmed some of the information was sent to suspicious IP addresses in various European countries.

There's no indication the two instances are connected.

Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina and an expert on digital citizenship and society, said these types of attacks are common, but usually go unreported. 

When asked why Saskatchewan could potentially be targeted by cybercriminals, he said there are numerous factors at play and that Saskatchewan is not alone. 

"This is happening all over the world," he said. 

He said hackers and cybercriminals may be less likely to go after larger institutions or governments, as they're perceived to have sophisticated security systems, while a mid-sized school like the U of S may be perceived to have a lesser system.

"We may have been identified as having a lower-threshold to get in perhaps," he said. "Maybe we're that mid-sized target."