Update: Security response to the email service breach

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

A message from Jacinda Reitsma, Vice-President, Administration and Finance.

  • Online systems will experience scheduled downtime tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m.
  • If you are already logged in to applications prior to this period, you may not experience any down time 
  • You will be required to reset your WatIAM password once the systems are back online 

    On May 30, the University of Waterloo prevented an attempted ransomware-attack to our domain. Since then, we have been managing the security response to successfully limit the impact of the initial breach. Only our on-campus Microsoft Exchange email services have been affected, meaning that most of our users who work with cloud-based email have not been affected.  

    As a result of this situation, we have temporarily disabled Waterloo’s WatIAM system. This restricts the ability for new user accounts to be created.

    The IST team is planning for a complete authentication system shutdown tomorrow evening starting at 6:30 p.m. to restore systems, with an estimated outage time of two to six hours. As you can understand, there is a need for an urgent response to this situation. This means you will not be able to use your WatIAM credentials to sign into systems that require a login, such as Waterloo LEARN, Quest, campus and lab computers, Workday, Eduroam, and your Microsoft 365 (including email) during that period. If you stay logged in to applications during this period, you may not experience any downtime. 

    Following the work, we will require you to change your WatIAM password. Please do not attempt to change your password before this shutdown as you will still be required to change it once the authentication system is restored. 

    We will hold a townhall tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. to answer your questions and to share more details on the planned shutdown. Please join us then – you do not need to register. 

    We know that some people are hosting or attending classes, labs, or other on-campus activities tomorrow evening. We are assessing whether there will be any impact on classes and activities. We will be working with the deans' offices to provide additional direction. Instructors will receive more information throughout the course of the day, as needed.

    If you have any questions about access to your systems, please email helpdesk@uwaterloo.ca

May 30, 2023

A message from Jacinda Reitsma, Vice-President, Administration and Finance.

We are aware of a breach involving our on-campus email service (Microsoft Exchange). This service has now been isolated. Most Microsoft Exchange accounts are currently housed in the cloud and are not affected. This means that for most people on campus, your email access is unaffected.
As we continue to investigate the impact of this breach, we may need to isolate more services which means you may not be able to access some systems throughout the day today. 
We will continue to share information as it becomes available on the IST News pages. If you have questions about access to systems today, please email helpdesk@uwaterloo.ca with any questions you may have.