Eduvation Blog

Cyberattacks, Terror Attacks, and an Election too!

Good morning!

Most of us have no vote, but we’re all watching anxiously today as America goes to the polls. Or more precisely, as America STOPS going to the polls, since 98 million votes have already been cast early. There’s almost no chance we will have a clear decision tonight or tomorrow, since millions of mail-in ballots will remain to be counted. (Final results may not be certified for weeks.) Even worse, this is likely to be the most extensively litigated election in history, with both sides preparing their legal teams to contest any result in court. So there’s little point to doomscrolling for polls or polling results to indicate how this will turn out.

I considered devoting space today to speculate about the impacts of a Trump or Biden presidency on international student mobility, PSE funding, Alberta’s energy sector, Ontario manufacturing, Canada’s relations with China

But frankly, it already feels like anxiety is running too high, and there’s nothing we Canadians can do about it. Many Republicans and Democrats alike seem convinced that, should the other guy win, American democracy will implode. Already QAnon convoys are intimidating voters and obstructing the Biden campaign bus. If either side wins in a landslide – or even worse, the winner is inconclusive in a tight race – many fear there will be protests or even riots in the streets. Americans have already bought a record number of guns this year. Retailers are boarding up their windows in anticipation. The National Guard is readying for deployment. Even the White House is erecting an “unscalable” wall. We can only hold our breath, and hope these anxieties are misplaced.

Quite honestly, we barely have the bandwidth to worry about the political war of words in America, when civilization seems to be under attack on all sides. This week seems to be an inflection point with potential repercussions for much more than just a 4-year presidential term – Protests and riots seem to be erupting around the world. Terrorists attacked a university yesterday, killing 22. And a cyberattack has knocked a Canadian polytechnic offline for days…

“Election Day 2020 in fact marks the end of a lengthy voting period and the start of a potentially lengthy counting period.”Elise Viebeck, The Washington Post


“Trump began his term promising to build a wall to protect America from the world. He ends it building a wall to protect himself from Americans.”Nick Confessore, New York Times


Since the pivot to remote delivery and WFH this spring, I’ve watched colleges and universities share warnings and tips with their communities to avoid phishing scams and use secure passwords. Once our institutions and activities exist almost entirely online, they can be wiped away at the click of a mouse…

Cyberattack on SaskPolytech

On Saturday, Saskatchewan Polytechnic reported a “service disruption” affecting their website, intranet portal, VPN and other operating platforms and online services. The warning, however, added that “it is important that you do not use your computer to access the network or services using a VPN connection,” and that email should only be accessed using a cellphone. Clearly this was more than equipment failure.

On Sunday, SaskPoly clarified that it had been the target of a “cybersecurity incident” and was working with outside experts and law enforcement to assess its extent. All online and in-person applied classes were cancelled for Nov 2-4, and “Our first priority is to restore the online learning environment for students” (Brightspace).

On Monday, SaskPoly reported it was making progress restoring systems, including Microsoft Office, Outlook email and calendars, Zoom and Kaltura. Employees were instructed to install “adaptive, next-generation antivirus and endpoint detection and response software.” It clarified that “during the period of Nov 2-4th, there should be no learning activities, classes, program offerings, student required assignments, meetings with staff, students, or other stakeholders… Assignments due are postponed. Access to campus is extremely limited.” Students were warned that they may need to resubmit assignments once systems are restored.

By press time Monday night, SaskPoly’s Brightspace and Banner systems remained inaccessible to most staff and faculty, and the website was completely dark. Updates on the situation are being shared at a new purpose-built website, The institution emphasizes that “at this time, there is no reason to conclude personal information has been breached.”

uUtah paid $450K Data Ransom

In late August, the U of Utah revealed that it paid extortionists $457,059.24 to stop a cyberattack on servers at its College of Social and Behavioural Science in July. The “unknown entity” encrypted just 0.02% of the data stored there before IS detected the attack. The affected servers were isolated, cleaned, and reinstalled from backups – but because they included employee and student information, the ransom was paid “as a proactive and preventive step to ensure information was not released on the internet.” US News

Public Unrest

The combination of economic recession (or depression), high unemployment, free-floating anxiety about COVID19 and frustration with public health restrictions is causing unease and stress around the world. But there are also signs that many demonstrations and riots are being strategically orchestrated by organized crime and other groups, for financial ends…

UK Teachers want Classes Cancelled

150,000 teachers and staff are urging England’s government to close schools and colleges during the second lockdown, throughout November. “We have seen a fifty-fold increase in infections in secondary schools alone since September. Schools, clearly, are an engine for virus transmission.”  The Independent

Mafia behind Italian Protests

In Italy, hundreds of protesters have flooded the streets of Rome, Milan, Naples, Florence and Turin in the past week to protest PHO restrictions. (On Saturday night in Rome, the crowd threw bottles and firecrackers, and were dispersed by riot police.) Authorities believe the Mafia has been orchestrating the protests to protect their own business interests.  Politico

Organized Riots in Spain

Spain’s declaration of a 6-month state of emergency sparked “violent and irrational” demonstrations in cities across the country this weekend. In Madrid on Saturday, rubbish bins were set on fire, 32 were arrested, and 12 injured. In Logrōno, 6 were arrested after rioters looted stores. Police believe some of the protests have involved “far-right elements.”  The Guardian

Pro-Choice Protests in Poland

In Poland, where a court ruling tightened what are already some of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws, 6 days of massive protests have blocked traffic, surrounded churches, and disrupted masses – despite pandemic restrictions on gatherings of >5 people. Poland’s archbishop “appealed for calm and respect for churches.”  CTV

“Mayhem” in Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver was the scene of “mayhem” on Saturday night as police responded to 800 calls, a purple Porsche was set afire, 3 people were assaulted and 1 stabbed, and “hundreds of partiers” swarmed police and smashed a cruiser window. Police did not issue social distancing tickets because “it would not have been safe,” but did confiscate numerous toy guns, knives, brass knuckles and fireworks. Vancouver Sun

State of Emergency in Aylmer

Even tiny Aylmer, Ontario (pop 7,492), has declared a state of emergency over an upcoming freedom march to protest COVID19 restrictions next Saturday. >150 protesters gathered on Oct 24, including many families with children, not wearing masks or distancing.  London Free Press

Terror Attacks

The past few days have seen a surprising amount of street violence and terror attacks around the world, motivated primarily by religious zeal…

Terrorists Attack Kabul U

On Monday morning, 3 Islamic State militants stormed the campus of Kabul University in Afghanistan, killing at least 22 students and staff and wounding 22 others before security forces shot them dead. On Oct 24, a suicide bomber killed 24 people, including teen students, at an education centre in Kabul. Violence has plagued Afghanistan while the government negotiates with the Taliban, and the US brings home its troops. The Afghan president has declared a national day of mourning today.  National Post

Terror Attack in Austria

A multiple-gun attack at 6 different locations in downtown Vienna, Austria killed 3 and injured at least 15 last night. One suspect was shot dead by police, while at least one other is at large. The shootings happened near Vienna’s central synagogue, just hours before Austria’s new COVID19 restrictions were to come into effect.  CNN

Attacks on France

After a high school history teacher showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, an online hate campaign seems to have driven an 18-year-old to behead him, and 6 others have been charged with complicity. When French president Emmanuel Macron defended the teacher and free speech, it sparked protests across Muslim-majority countries and calls to boycott French goods. On Thursday, an “Islamist terrorist attack” at a basilica in Nice, France left 3 people dead from brutal knife wounds, after a confrontation in Montfavet and an attack on the French consulate in Saudi Arabia. The government is deploying 7,000 troops to protect churches and schools.  BBC

Swordsman in Quebec

On Hallowe’en night, a 24-year-old wearing a medieval costume and brandishing a samurai sword went on a “stabbing rampage” in Old Quebec City, killing 2 and injuring 5. Authorities believe mental health issues may have been a root cause.  Montréal Gazette


COVID on Campus

10 more cases of COVID19 have been reported by CdnPSE since yesterday:

Conestoga College reports a case of COVID19 at the Doon Campus Child Care Centre. Conestoga

Durham College reports that another student at its Whitby campus has tested positive. (Total now 12 cases this fall across DC’s campuses.)

Lethbridge College declared a COVID19 outbreak after 7 people in the powerline technician program tested positive. The cohort has not recently been in the main college buildings.  Global

Niagara College has reported its 5th COVID19 case this fall, at the Welland campus.  Global

What, Me Worry?

Because you know you want to…

How to Worry Mindfully

Anxiety is a natural reaction when we’re surrounded by uncertainty, threats and downside risks – but worry can overwhelm us, drain us emotionally, and interfere with our lives and work. “Our minds will try to solve a problem, even if it’s a problem that can’t be solved by us.” Worrying feels like we’re doing something, and it allows us to focus on thinking rather than feeling, which can give us a false sense of control. “Confusing worrying with coping robs you of moments of peace.” Trying to push worrying thoughts out of your mind only intensifies them; instead, consider mindfully observing them with detachment. Ironically, by scheduling 20-30 min to worry in depth, you can “break the all-day worry habit,” and immersion can be an effective form of exposure therapy. (One study found that students could reduce exam anxiety by journaling about their anxiety beforehand.) Some people even get bored by their worry appointments.  New York Times

PS: Enrolments

Yesterday Alex Usher and I were both writing about the Atlantic Universities’ enrolment data. (Great minds yadda yadda…) His link to my old blog from early September prompted me to update it extensively, so it now gathers all the Fall 2020 CdnPSE announcements about enrolment that I have covered in the Insider, and of course a newly updated spreadsheet. (The general trends haven’t changed, although there are some definite winners out there in the enrolment game! Look for the darkest green boxes…)


Rise to the Challenge

Capilano U launched a new 1-min brand video yesterday that’s worth checking out. It includes some beautiful videography and dynamic music, and acknowledges that students “have definitely watched the world go by” online. “Here, you get a customized learning experience as a participant, not a spectator.” “Are you ready to rise to the challenge?” YouTube


Thanks for reading this far!  I do have to apologize – I tried 3 different ways to make this an uplifting issue that would be an escape from all the doomscrolling out there – and failed. Here’s hoping the day is uneventful and I can focus on happier thoughts tomorrow!

Stay safe and be well,


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