SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 27, 2022

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Austin Peay University

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 27, 2022, Austin Peay University suffered a ransomware attack, causing the administration to cancel final exams scheduled for April 29 and disrupting access to the university’s network, services, and resources for several days.

In the afternoon on April 27, the Austin Peay University announced through social media and its alert system that it was being targeted by a ransomware attack and asked that all students and staff immediately shut down their computers. Although the university announced shortly after that the attack had been contained, IT staff continued to investigate the situation and access to the campus computers, network, and websites remained limited. As a result, the university canceled the final exams that were scheduled to be held on April 29 and instructed professors to grade impacted students based on their coursework while granting students the ability to opt for an “Incomplete” on their transcript and potentially take the exam later. As of April 30, nearly all services and resources had been restored.

The university did not disclose any information about the source of the attack, and it is unclear if any personal data was compromised.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a targeted cyber attack on a higher education institution. Such attacks disrupt classes and campus life and threaten the personal security and information of students, scholars, and staff. Federal, state, and university authorities should take reasonable steps to respond to and prevent such attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators accountable. In addition to the harm to the targets, such threats undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.