Campus law students receive email about financial system outage, possible delays in financial aid refunds

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UC Berkeley School of Law students received an email Wednesday warning them of possible disruptions to financial aid disbursements due to a major outage of the Berkeley Financial System, or BFS, and its ancillary systems.

The campus’s Information Services and Technology website announced an outage of the BFS and its supplemental systems Dec. 30 after discovering a possible security risk and intentionally took the systems offline to investigate.

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said a unit of the BFS experienced “clearly unauthorized access,” although it is still unclear what the exact nature of the threat is. There is no evidence that any data or personal information was taken, but the system outage is still in place for IST to investigate the issue, according to Mogulof.

“We don’t want to take any chances until we have a thorough understanding of what happened and why it happened,” Mogulof said.

To investigate and resolve the problem, IST experts have been “working around the clock,” according to Mogulof. IST is keeping students and faculty updated on the IST Service Status page, where there is a chart of affected applications and systems, the impacts of the system outages and alternatives to using the affected programs.

According to Aaron Turner, IST service desk analyst, IST expects the systems to be back online Monday or Tuesday at the earliest. Berkeley Law, however, begins the spring term Monday.

Berkeley Law’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Knab, who issued the email to the students, explained the problem at hand and apologized for any inconveniences this may cause for law students who rely on the timely processing of financial aid through electronic fund transfers and check issuances.

To offset some of the problems caused by the outage of the BFS’s ancillary systems, such as the inability to make purchases through BearBuy, the Berkeley Law bookstore is allowing affected students to receive their textbooks for the spring term before making payments, according to an email from Berkeley Law spokesperson Susan Gluss.

Attached to Knab’s email to the law students was an email from Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Larry Conrad, which provided updates on the status of the outage as of last Tuesday.

Campus undergraduate students and those who will not be starting school as early as Berkeley Law students have not received the email from Conrad regarding the outage or its impacts, according to Mogulof. He said, however, that such an email is unnecessary as of now because the campus intends to have “little or no disruption for things that are obviously so important to students.”

“If it comes to pass that there will be disruptions (to financial aid disbursements), we’ll be happy to talk about it,” Mogulof said.

No other UC campuses are experiencing a similar security threat or consequential system outage, he added.

Contact Ericka Shin at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ericka_shin