University College London, one of the world’s most eminent seats of learning, has suffered a ransomware attack that has severely affected access to the files of its academics. Initially the malware infestation, which circumvented the college’s antivirus system, was thought to be the result of a phishing excursion. It now looks more likely that someone at UCL triggered the outbreak by visiting a malicious webpage.
Universities have become popular and lucrative prey for ransomware attacks due to the volume and intellectual value of the files stored on their servers. Ironically, considering the brainpower contained within their hallowed portals, university staff and students are often not particularly cybersecurity-savvy – making them a soft target for hackers.
Investigation into the cause and exact scope of the cyberattack is ongoing, but a few days after the initial outbreak, UCL was able to restore access to all of its drives. Networked and shared drives had remained in read-only mode until the issue was resolved. The university has issued advice to staff and students reminding them to be wary when visiting websites or receiving unusual or unexpected emails.
The university’s latest update on the cyberattack: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/isd/news/isd-news/jun2017/ucl-wide-ransomware-attack-14062017