Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Ransomware attack interrupted

By University Relations.

Last week, the University of Waterloo interrupted a ransomware attack to our online systems while it was in progress. Through co-operation between international law enforcement and the RCMP, the University received intelligence that a security threat was either imminent or in-progress.

At 4:30 a.m. on May 30, the RCMP notified the University’s Special Constable Services and phoned Mike Patterson, manager of the IST information security services security operations centre. Patterson sprang into action and rushed to campus.

He was able to confirm the information provided by the RCMP and immediately isolated the on-premises email system. After performing further triage, Patterson notified other IST team members, who responded immediately to further contain the breach. The containment actions performed through IST’s initial response isolated all vectors, or pathways, used by the attacker to get into our systems. Their access was effectively cut-off before the start of the workday.

“I applaud the prompt actions of the IST team and law enforcement agencies including Waterloo’s Special Constable Service, to intercept this ransomware attack,” says Jacinda Reitsma, Vice-President, Administration and Finance at Waterloo. “There is a growing trend of universities, governments and corporate enterprises becoming targets of these kinds of attacks. I’m proud of the security expertise and leadership shown by Waterloo’s IST team to isolate this threat. As we’ve seen with other victims of ransomware, the outcome could have been disastrous if not interrupted in time.”

Based on intelligence from law enforcement and partners, it is believed the attack against the University is part of a known overseas-based ransomware operation.

Since interrupting the attack, IST activated their security response plan and began identifying the extent of the breach. All the University’s backup data are intact, and the attackers were unsuccessful in gaining access to mass storage. It was confirmed that our on-premises email server was compromised, but fortunately, only a tiny number of users were impacted as more than 99.9 per cent of Waterloo’s email users are on Microsoft 365 and this email service is hosted in the cloud.

The security response temporarily required a full authentication system shutdown. The scheduled downtime took place on the evening of Thursday, June 1 and all WatIAM users received notice on Friday, June 2 to resets their passwords.

Please ensure that you have reset your password within the required timeframe outlined in your email.

“It’s important for us to continue to be vigilant and to take steps to ensure that all Waterloo systems are secured and to protect against the risk of attacks like this,” said Gregory Smith, Chief Information Officer – who officially started in his role on June 1 (but unofficially got to work early as news of the attack broke). “Though we have prevented the worst outcomes, IST and campus IT teams have a lot more work ahead of us to make sure we understand what happened here, and to act proactively to mitigate future attacks.”

Waterloo’s IST team is working in conjunction with a third-party cybersecurity specialist firm to diligently assess whether any further online systems were affected and is continuing to take steps to secure the University’s online systems and data. As the teams undertake a forensic analysis of the attack, users could experience interruptions to some systems and services as further mitigation activity happens.

If you have any questions, please see FAQs on the IST website for more information or reach out to helpdesk@uwaterloo.ca.

Robin Cohen receives 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science

This is an excerpt of an article originally published on the Cheriton School of Computer Science's website.

Professor Robin Cohen.Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Robin Cohen has received the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science from CS-Can | Info-Can, the non-profit society dedicated to representing all aspects of computer science and the interests of the discipline across Canada. Conferred annually since 2014, these prestigious awards recognize professors in departments, schools and faculties of computer science across the nation who have made exemplary and sustained contributions to computer science research, teaching and service over their careers. 

“I’m pleased to congratulate Robin on her receiving a much-deserved 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from CS-Can | Info-Can,” said Raouf Boutaba, Professor and Director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “Robin has an established and continuing record of excellence in artificial intelligence research, and she has been an outstanding leader to and mentor of new AI researchers. Moreover, she has been an inspiration to undergrads, grads and colleagues alike, as well as a strong role model to women in computer science throughout her career.”

The 2022 awards will be presented on June 7, 2023 at the CS-Can | Info-Can Annual Awards Gala, as part of the group’s conference held this year at McGill University.

“Although I try to avoid the limelight, I’m delighted to have had the chance to serve as an example of the opportunities that await all women in computer science these days,” Professor Cohen said.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who made this special recognition possible,” she continued. “To my husband, who enabled my success with this career path through his strong support and dedication at home; to my daughter, who accompanied me to many AI conferences and taught me much about societal concerns; to my father, who showed me the importance of empathy towards others; and to my mother, who modelled the true value of leadership. I am also grateful to my PhD supervisor, Ray Perrault at U of T, for launching my academic career, to the University of Waterloo for giving me a chance as a faculty member, and to Professor Ebrahim Bagheri, at Toronto Metropolitan University, who nominated me for this award.”

About Professor Robin Cohen

Professor Cohen has been a role model for women in computer science in Canada for more than 35 years, staying in academia, reaching the highest levels of administration at her university, and demonstrating the potential for top honours with such awards as the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association, and both the Waterloo Distinguished Teacher Award and Waterloo Graduate Supervision Award. She also stands out through the unmatched recognition that her master’s and PhD students have achieved under her supervision. 

Quite notably, four of her students have received the Alumni Gold Medal, the top award a graduate student can receive at the University of Waterloo, and another three have received the Outstanding Achievement in Graduate Studies, the top graduate student award from the Faculty of Mathematics. One of her PhD students won the Canadian Artificial Intelligence Association Doctoral Dissertation Award. 

Professor Cohen’s training and mentorship have also helped her students become successful professionally. Her former graduate students include faculty members at Canadian universities, including Waterloo, Ottawa, Mount Allison, New Brunswick, and Simon Fraser, and at leading international institutions, including Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and IIT Delhi in India. Additionally, many of her students have gone on to successful careers at large tech companies, among them IBM and Google. 

Read the full article on the Computer Science website.

Register for Together | Ensemble 2023

Together Ensemble 2023 banner image.

Join Canada’s SDGs community for a mix of in-person and online events at Together|Ensemble 2023. Together|Ensemble is Canada’s national conference devoted to tracking progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), bringing together the private sector, academia, government, and civil society. This year's conference theme focuses on how to accelerate Canada’s SDGs progress and what needs to be done differently to achieve them.

Together|Ensemble 2023 will take place on June 7, 8, and 9. The conference will be hosted in-person and online, with days 1 and 2 hosted in-person at up to six partner sites across Canada with an accompanying online program livestreamed to the Together|Ensemble website for viewing. Day 3 is reserved for Canadian organizations working on the SDGs to organize side-events which will be hosted online.

Register now for free and hear the latest on Canada’s SDGs progress.

Board of Governors meeting today; other notes

The University's Board of Governors meets today at 1:30 p.m. in NH 3407. Among the agenda items:

  • A motion to approve amendments to Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour;
  • A motion from the Audit & Risk Committee that the Board delegate its authority to approve the recommendation for the university’s external auditor appointment for the fiscal year ended 30 April 2024 to the Board Executive Committee;
  • A motion from the Building & Properties Committee that the Building & Properties Committee recommend the Board of Governors approve the award of a construction management contract (CCDC-5B) to Gillam Construction Group Ltd in the amount of $1,958,000 (excluding HST) plus reimbursable expenses, and that the construction management contract will be converted to a stipulated price option once the construction phasing and logistics have been finalized and all bidding for the trade packages is complete;
  • A motion from the Building & Properties Committee to recommend to the Board of Governors the granting of an easement to Enova Power of approximately 335.1m2 (0.083 acres) required for the replacement of the Hydro pole line along Bearinger Road;
  • A motion from the Governance Committee to recommend that the Board of Governors approve the Board Mandate and position descriptions for the Governor, Board Chair, Board Vice Chair and Committee Chair;
  • A motion from the Governance Committee to approve the Board Succession Policy;
  • A motion from the Governance Committee that the Board approve the 2024/25 Board and Board Committee Dates for approval;
  • A motion from the Pension & Benefits Committee to approve the filing of the actuarial valuation report as at 1 January 2023 with the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA);
  • A motion from the Pension & Benefits Commtitee to approve Amendment No. 9 to the University of Waterloo Pension Plan for Faculty and Staff;

  • from the Vice-President Administration and Finance, a motion to approve the incidental fee changes effective Fall 2023; and

  • from the Consent Agenda, a motion to approve the list of faculty sabbaticals and administrative leaves.

Additionally, Dr. Christopher Taylor will deliver a President’s Anti-Racism Task Force update.

The Registrar's Office has announced that the final examination schedule for the spring 2023 term has been posted online. The final examination period will run from August 4 to August 19. 

Link of the day

25 years ago: The Truman Show

When and Where 

Warrior Recreation Registration for the spring term is now open.

Waterloo Warriors Youth Camps. Spring and Summer camps available for Boys and Girls ages 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Hockey and Multi-Sport and Games. Register today.

Fitness and Personal Training - Registrations now open for Personal Training and Small Group Training, as well as a Free Warrior Workout Program.

Student Health Pharmacy in the basement of the Student Life Centre is now offering Covid booster shots (Pfizer and Moderna) and flu shots. Call 519-746-4500 or extension 33784 for an appointment. Walk-ins always welcome.

Inclusive Research Team presents First Nations Principles of OCAP® Virtual Presentation, Tuesday, June 6, 10:00 a.m. Register today.

Board of Governors meeting, Tuesday, June 6, 1:30 p.m., NH 3407 and online.

Quantum for Environment Design Challenge Launch Event, Tuesday, June 6, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., QNC 0101.

Land Skills for Wellness and Sustainability Project, Herbals for Managing Stress, Tuesday, June 6, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Together/Ensemble 2023, Wednesday, June 7 to Friday, June 9.

Food Truck Wednesday brought you by UW Food Services, Wednesday, June 7,  11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Arts Quad.

Dr. John Hirdes, School of Public Health Sciences, presents Back to the future of gerontology: Opportunities, Challenges, and Uncertainties in the Next 40 Years of an Aging World for the University's Network for Aging Research's fourth annual William F. Forbes lecture, Wednesday, June 7, 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., LHS 1621 (Sunlife Auditorium) and online. Please register in advance.

Dissertation Boot Camp applications close, Wednesday, June 8.

Continuous Improvement, Change Management, Project & Portfolio Management Community of Practice Showcase, Thursday, June 8, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., DC 1301.

Decoding happiness: Understanding the science behind..., Thursday, June 8, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., United College Alumni Hall 201.

Staff Association monthly meeting, Thursday, June 8, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., MS Teams. All staff welcome.

Speed Hack, Thursday, June 8, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., South Campus Hall 228.

Indigenous Movie Night: Night Raiders, Thursday, June 8, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., LHI 1621. Doors open at 5:00 p.m.

NEW - Inclusive Physical Space Framework, a Together|Ensemble side event, Friday, June 9, 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Join the meeting on Zoom.

Mix, Mingle & Roll the Dice: UW Co-op Student Mixer, Friday, June 9, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., SLC Student Lounge (formerly the Bombshelter Pub).

Safeguarding Research Town Hall, Monday, June 12, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Enterprise Theatre, EC5 or on MS Teams.

Spring 2023 Convocation ceremonies, Tuesday, June 13 to Saturday, June 17, Physical Activities Complex.

Food Truck Wednesday brought you by UW Food Services, Wednesday, June 14,  11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Arts Quad.

Land Skills for Wellness and Sustainability Project, Introduction to Spoon carving (Green Woodworking), Wednesday, June 14, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Pride Movie Night, "But I'm a Cheerleader," Wednesday, June 14, 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., LHI 1621.

Cans for S’mores Bonfire Night, Wednesday, June 14, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Laurel Creek fire pit.

GreenHouse presents Storytelling for Social Impact, Thursday, June 15, 12 noon to 1:30 p.m., UTD 164.

NEW - Garlic Mustard Pull, Thursday, June 15, 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., DWE parking lot.

Therapy Dogs, Friday, June 16, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., SLC Lower Atrium Multipurpose Room.

Rock Your Thesis Part 1: Plan your Project, Friday, June 16, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Engineering presents Discover the Power of Leadership with Rola Dagher, Friday, June 16, 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., E7 event space, 2nd Floor Engineering 7.

NEW - Food Truck Wednesday brought you by UW Food Services, Wednesday, June 21,  11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Arts Quad.

NEW - Land Skills for Wellness and Sustainability Project, Nature Weaving Wednesday, Wednesday, June 21, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

NEW - Queer Trivia Night, Wednesday, June 21, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., SLC main floor multipurpose room.

Deadline to change your WatIAM password, Thursday, June 22. Instructions.

When and Where to get support 

Check out the support listings for faculty, staff and students.