University targeted by ransomware attack

Image credit: Christiaan Colen

The university website was targeted by a ransomware attack yesterday, leading the IT department to temporarily shut down some systems, including the Managed Cluster Service (MCS), as a precaution.

According to the university website, the MCS provides ‘open-access, managed desktop for staff and students. It provides Windows, Linux and Macintosh platforms, running a wide variety of software, managed printers and scanners.’

In an email to undergraduate students, Pembroke College IT Officer Alan Rogers urged ‘extreme caution’, saying: ‘You will probably have read about the worldwide attack on the IT systems of healthcare providers yesterday. Here in we also came under attack, and some systems (eg the MCS) were temporarily shut down yesterday evening as a precaution. So far we are unaware of any penetration of our defences.

‘If you are unlucky enough to become infected and see a message on your screen asking you to send money in order to decrypt your files, may I remind you that you MUST switch off or otherwise power down your computer IMMEDIATELY so that it can no longer communicate with other computers on the College and University networks.’

This comes amid reports of cyber-attacks in 99 countries around the world, thought to have been carried out using technology stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The National Health Service (NHS) in England and Scotland was among the worst-hit organisations, as reported by the BBC. Whether these attacks and the one here in Cambridge were carried out by the same party remains unknown.

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