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FBI not asked to help with hacker ‘intrusion’ causing computer network outage at UTEP

UPDATE, March 9: The University of Texas of El Paso has not sought help from the FBI for a devastating hacker attack that has shut down computer systems on campus for days.

FBI Special Agent Jeanette Harper told El Paso Matters that UTEP has not contacted the FBI El Paso division for help.

“UTEP has not contacted our office regarding their networking systems being down. Our office is willing to provide resources if and when UTEP decides they need our assistance,” Harper said.

UPDATE, March 8: After UTEP servers for email and other university sites were down since Friday due to a hacker attack, the university said Monday it was able to get Blackboard, the educational platform that allows students to submit assignments and meet for online classes, back up and running.

Nonetheless, students were concerned about the time they'd lost to work on class assignments over the weekend.

“It’s stressful because we don’t know what is going to happen with our classes.  Most of us are assigned work during the weekend.  We don’t know if they are going to give us an extended deadline, we don’t know for those of us who have to take tests how this is going to affect our scores and we are just trying to, you know, survive this little outage,” said UTEP Graduate student Claudia Flores.

“It is nerve-racking and I do get anxious because of my assignments and my grades are very important to me.  When it shut down I was concerned and anxious asking other students if they were receiving the same thing and then we got that big broadcast. They are nervous as well. I'm pretty sure UTEP is doing their best right now,” added Mary Elizabeth Chavez, a sophomore at UTEP.

UPDATE, March 7: UTEP officials announced Sunday night that a hacker attack was believed responsible for a computer network outage on campus that first surfaced on Friday and remained an issue days later.

No personal information was believed to have been disclosed in what the university tweeted was an "unauthorized and potentially malicious intrusion in our on-campus network."

The university said tech staff had been working throughout the weekend to restore its systems one-by-one and was trying to get online teaching back up and running for Monday morning - although it remained unclear late Sunday whether that would happen.

Because of the outage, UTEP said faculty would need to "adjust deadlines and coursework accordingly" for students.

Officials also said "all non-essential faculty, staff and students should work from home Monday."

ORIGINAL REPORT, March 5: EL PASO, Texas -- A computer network outage was causing issues on the University of Texas El Paso campus Friday, officials said.

What was described as a "campus-wide network" problem had shut down access to email and other computer systems on campus, the university tweeted.

The outage also resulted in the closure of UTEP's Covid-19 walk-up testing sites, officials indicated.

A cause for the outage was not indicated and the university said its Internet Technology (IT) department was working to resolve the issues - although no estimated time for a fix was immediately provided.

Article Topic Follows: Education

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.

Wil Herren

Wil Herren is an ABC-7 reporter who covers both news and sports.


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