Massive disruption: Central IT at the University of Düsseldorf mostly offline

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Since this Thursday morning there have been massive disruptions in the central IT at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (HHU). The university’s Internet connection, the intranet, the e-mail system and many of the services and software systems used by students and staff have completely or partially failed.

As the HHU announced via its social media presence, the cause is a “faulty software update from the manufacturer VMware”. As a result, the HHU’s central virtualization environment “currently has massive problems”. A fix could take 24 or even 48 hours.

Employees at the University of Düsseldorf report significant problems in their daily work. It is currently unknown which VMware update caused the problem and why. The university’s press office was unable to provide any specific answers to inquiries from heise online. At the Center for Information and Media Technology (ZIM) at the university, no one with the relevant responsibility could be reached.

The most recent major security updates for VMware systems affected vCenter Server at the end of September and vRealize last week. During the September updates, VMware warned of impending ransomware attacks through an exploit that had already been published (for the security vulnerability known as CVE-2021-22005). Although the problems in the HHU’s IT network appear to have symptoms similar to those of a ransomware attack, this does not seem to be the case here.

University employees and students can rely on a status website of the ZIM Inform about the current status of the internal IT systems. The ZIM technicians are currently working with an external service provider to repair the VMware system. This is “very complex” and requires a restoration of the software version before the faulty update, said the university on Twitter and Instagram.

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Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf is the eighth largest university in North Rhine-Westphalia and is the 13th largest university in Germany. It has 36,008 students in the current semester and currently almost four thousand permanent employees. It is known throughout Germany primarily because of its medical faculty with its connection to the University Hospital Düsseldorf (UKD). The UKD was last in the headlines a year ago due to extensive IT failures in the wake of a hacker attack.


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