MAASTRICHT. On the night of 23 December, Maastricht University fell victim to a serious cyber-attack with the so-called Clop virus (ransomware). This made access to a lot of scientific data impossible. The e-mail system is down too, and the Student Portal and the library are offline. Exactly how this happened is now being investigated, says spokesman Gert van Doorn.
It was a "very advanced and swift attack". Two months ago, the University of Antwerp was also hit with the Clop virus. In that instance, scientific documents and student information were spared. Scientific data at the UM has extra security, says Van Doorn. It now appears that the hackers did not manage to penetrate to that information, but investigations still have to confirm that fact.
Criminal hackers often send this virus as e-mail attachments, usually in the form of Microsoft Word files. They are prepared to provide a key as a solution after payment of a certain amount. If the victim does not pay up, all the files will be destroyed within two weeks. As far as we know, the hackers have not mentioned an amount yet. The rumour that bitcoins worth three hundred thousand have been demanded, Van Doorn refers to as a fairy-tale.
The EnigmaSoft company claims to have an anti-virus program - SpyHunter – that protects computers against Clop ransomware. Whether the UM considered protecting itself against this virus after the attack on the University of Antwerp, is not known.
The UM has no idea how long all this is going to take. "We are currently investigating how this could happen, what action we should take, and what possible solutions there are." The Executive Board is considering reporting the crime, said the spokesperson.
The fact that the library is out of action, is mainly a pain for students working on their theses during the Christmas holidays and wanting to consult digital sources.