News

Russian hackers not included: The Moose website replaced by Engage AQ

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Editor-in-Chief

Photo courtesy pexels.com

Rumors have circled across campus that The Moose, Aquinas’ former online message board, was taken hostage by Russian hackers since it disappeared last semester. The truth is less dramatic, but better news for student and staff security.

The Moose website was developed in-house at Aquinas by IT department over 15 years ago. As a “homegrown” portal, it was not sophisticated enough to handle present-day security concerns. The website crashed early in the Fall 2020 semester, and IT shut it down completely at that time. 

While the Moose was not taken hostage by Russian hackers, the college was concerned that it could be susceptible to an attack like that in the future. 

“That’s how this whole conversation started, because we recognized there were ‘Zoom bombs’ happening on campus to a colleague,” said Tim Ramsay, Interim Director of Student Activities and Orientation and Director of Study Abroad, referring to Zoom meetings that are crashed by outside parties. Ramsay helped direct the move from the Moose platform to Engage AQ, its official replacement.

Faculty and staff were recently alerted of an increase in “attempted cyber attacks,” due in part to expanded virtual learning since the pandemic began. Colleges and universities across the country have been falling victim, including nearby Michigan State University, whose physics department information was hacked and held for ransom in June 2020. Aquinas’ Moose website was outdated, required continual upkeep, and could have provided an easy way into other college portals containing private information.

The Engage AQ website has been active for student organizations since 2019, and Ramsay saw the opportunity to “shepherd Engage to the forefront of student experience” when the Moose needed replacement. Engage is a single-login platform that holds a number of pages, including campus news, job postings, RSO events, campus forms and more. Navigating Aquinas websites can be “like trying to get into Fort Knox,” Ramsay said, and the switch to Engage was intended to streamline information channels while protecting student data: “We’re finally catching up.”

ACORN, the Moose’s parallel website for faculty and staff, still functions and is not under consideration for replacement. CourseConnect, MyAQ, and other student portals will remain in place for the immediate future.

Campus news and announcements can now be found on the Engage AQ homepage. Local off-campus job listings are available on the Advantage Center’s Engage page. Ramsay is available for tutorials on using Engage AQ.

Categories: News, The Saint

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