Written by Devon Mitchell
On Tuesday, December 15, the Roanoke community received an email from the college informing them, Roanoke experienced a ‘cyber event’. Students, faculty, and staff were told not to access the network and their files. The college alerted the Salem police, and the Virginia State police; the FBI later became involved. It was uncertain how long the outage would last, but RC’s IT Department worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the systems.
Soon after an initial email was sent out, students, staff, and faculty were told not to use their Outlook accounts. A couple of days later, students were informed the start of the semester would be postponed by three weeks. The email stated, “COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States, including in Virginia, where Gov. Ralph Northam recently issued an executive order to slow the spread of the virus… The delayed semester start also allows the College time to ensure that all network outages we are currently experiencing are resolved.”
The College’s official response to postponing the semester was because of both COVID and the cyber event. However, the college hasn’t clarified what a ‘cyber event’ is and to what extent it compromised student information.
“I’ve come to terms with the fact that my social security number is probably on the dark web,” says sophomore Alexis Barton.
Students, such as Barton, are frustrated with the lack of transparency between the school and the Roanoke community. It was once mentioned the FBI was included in an investigation into the event, and since then they have not been mentioned.
Barton said, “It makes me feel good that they’re taking precautions, but it also makes me terrified that it is this serious.”
On December 23, the Roanoke community was alerted to change their Roanoke account and Outlook passwords. Since then, most of the network, phone lines, and services have been restored. As of February 5, NVivo which is a data analysis software found on classroom computers, is still in the process of being restored.
Although students are back on campus, and it seems the situation is sorted out, students still feel nervous about the state of their personal information. Is student’s information really protected? And how did this ‘cyber event’ come to be? These and more questions are what RC students are asking, and the Brackety-Ack intends to find out.