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Law students’ personal information possibly compromised in cyber attack

File Photo by Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor
GW Law Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew said AppointLink told officials the portal had been “compromised” early Friday morning.

Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 12:22 p.m.

GW Law students have been unable to access classroom materials after the “MyLaw” platform suffered a cyber attack on Friday, possibly exposing students and faculty’s personal information.

Officials said potentially compromised information included GWIDs, course schedules, academic and degree programs, faculty office locations and office phone numbers. Some students’ take-home final exams may have also been lost, a law school administrator said in an email to law students Monday evening.

It remains unclear when MyLaw, which provides law students with online access to classroom notes and past assignments, will come back online. AppointLink, an education software developer that owns the platform, did not immediately return a request for comment.

“GW takes very seriously any situation that could compromise our community members’ data,” administrators said in an email to law students Monday evening. “This incident is being thoroughly investigated by the vendor and GWIT Information Security, who took immediate and appropriate actions to reinforce existing security measures and to mitigate potential impact.”

Social security numbers, home addresses and dates of birth were not stored on the portal, officials said. Law school alumni’s graduation year and degree information may have also been exposed.

Officials also warned students to “protect” themselves against fraudulent calls and phishing scams by ignoring and deleting any suspicious communications asking for personal information.

“We want to assure you that we are continuing to take all appropriate actions to remediate the situation,” officials said in the email. “We recognize the seriousness of this issue and will continue to update you with any additional information about this incident as it becomes available.”

University spokesperson Crystal Nosal said in an email that AppointLink and GWIT Information Security are “thoroughly investigating” the incident.

In a separate email to law students, Michael Abramowicz, the school’s associate dean of academic affairs, said take-home final exams that were submitted on MyLaw between Dec. 9 after 2:31 a.m. and Dec. 10 before 3:15 a.m have likely been lost.

“We know of seven students whose take-home exams are unaccounted for, and we are sending those students a message simultaneous to this one,” Abramowicz said in the email. “But it is possible that others may also have submitted exams during this period.”

He said students who believe they submitted their exams during that 25-hour time period should send a copy to the Records Office as soon as possible.

“AppointLink is continuing to search log files to see if additional files may be recovered, but we are not sure that will be successful,” he said.

Law school Dean Dayna Bowen Matthew said AppointLink told officials the portal had been “compromised” early Friday morning.

“This is of utmost importance to us, and we know to you, first and foremost, to our students who are in exam period,” Matthew said in a video statement released Monday morning. “We can’t imagine a more stressful time for this to have happened.”

She said most final exams, the majority of which are administered through a separate software, are continuing as scheduled this week.

In response to the outage, the Student Bar Association created a crowdsourced Google Drive folder where students and faculty can upload missing documents and study materials until MyLaw services return online.

“Our faculty members and staff worked with students to contribute documents to google drives that contained the same materials that were lost in the attack,” Matthew said in an email to The Hatchet. “The University IT experts met with us around the clock to work toward restoration while also retrieving documents as requested.”

Matthew thanked the Student Bar Association for creating the shared folder and said law school faculty were continuing to share documents through it over the weekend.

“I want to say a huge thank you to the SBA who created a Google Doc shared location and poured into that all of the student contributions for sharing materials, all of the faculty contributions over the course of the weekend,” Matthew said in the video statement.

SBA President Jordan Michel had asked law school faculty and administrators on Friday night to re-upload class materials to the folder.

“We understand how stressful this situation is at an already stressful time,” Michel said in the email. “The SBA is in regular communication with the administration and has been advocating for alternatives to help students during this outage.”

SBA leaders also called for officials to extend exam deadlines and improve the current portal software in a separate letter to law school deans. The letter called GW’s response to the outage “abysmal” and “disappointing.”

“The students of this institution have prepared tirelessly for exams during this exhausting semester only to be met with dismissive placations and unpreparedness from the administration,” SBA senators said. “The absolute tip of the iceberg is the MyLaw outage with no current end in sight.”

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