The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Cyber attacks, high use slow down Web Portal

Daily Sundial

The CSUN web portal was slow at the beginning of this semester, partly due to cyber attacks, according to the interim chief information officer of Information Technology Resources.

At the beginning of the semester, finding what all the problems were with the portal was not easy.

“We just could not figure out what the problem was,” said Bob Moulton, interim chief information officer and administrator of the Web Portal.

The big peaks of portal, which gives access to CSUN students, staff and faculty, to commonly accessed and restricted campus sites, are the beginning and end of the semester, he said. though this semester was the worse that CSUN has had.

The most common form of cyber attacks on the portal comes through students bringing laptops to campus and connecting with the portal, said Steven Fitzgerald, chief technology officer of ITR.

“We put together a team that literally worked around the clock (to fix the portal),” Moulton said.

“I don’t want another one of these (portal crises),” he said.

Heavy users of the portal are staff members in Student Services, called power users, who process student admissions and registration, had to be directly routed to the Common Management System in Utah and bypass the problems in the school portal, Fitzgerald said.

There was improvement in portal (efficiency) from Monday to Tuesday and from Wednesday to Thursday during the first week of school, Fitzgerald said.

Long-term changes to the portal were discussed in an November meeting of Terry Piper, Vice President for Student Affairs, Provost Hellenbrand and Rick Shaw, Director of Student Affairs Information Technology, Shaw said.

A beta test of the redesigned portal is scheduled for April, and will give students a chance to look at the new design for the portal, Shaw said.

Shaw was asked during the meeting what needed to be done about the portal. He wanted to replace the current portal and set up a timeline to help the students, first, faculty, second and staff, third.

“I’m looking to the students to tell me what works,” Shaw said.

Shaw said feature sets of possible additions will be established for students and focus groups of students will be formed to find out what students want for the portal.

Shaw said the groups, such as the Associated Students, will be asked for feedback on what features they would like on the portal.

“We will be openly asking for student assistance,” Moulton said. “The key here is open dialogue with students.”

The crisis has been in the making for the last three to five semesters, said Harry Hellenbrand, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

“The portal is not what I would call user-friendly,” Hellenbrand said.

Short-term goals for working on the portal will be to the servers and make sure they can handle the (user load), Hellenbrand said.

“No one wants to live with this (portal problems),” Hellenbrand said.

The budget for the ground up redesign of the portal is around $700,000 for 18 months, which includes money for hardware, software and staff, Shaw said. Shaw drafted the proposal for the portal redesign.

“The portal should be easy to use and intuitive (responds to students requests),” Moulton said.

Problems with the portal in previous semesters included grades not showing up on the screen and the number of clicks it took to post grades, Moulton said.

The portal at CSUN is made up of five computers; one web server, two application, and two databases, Fitzgerald said. The portal at CSUN is connected to the CMI data center in Utah.

All 23 CSU schools are connected to CMI in Utah and have their own systems, Fitzgerald said.

Joseph Wilson can be reached at

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