University College London Suffers Zero-Day Ransomware Cyber Attack

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University College London (UCL) has come under fire from a ransomware attack, which appears to have encrypted filed belonging to the university’s academics. 

A source familiar with the issue told Silicon that UCL has suffered a cyber attack, and  UCL later confirmed that the attack appears to be a zero-day exploit that has seen it hit with a ransomware attack.

Further details on the attack are unclear; Silicon has contacted UCL for more information but has yet to receive a response.

UCL hack

UCL“Yesterday we suffered a ransomware infection that has infected a number of users personal and shared drives. We took the decision to disable access to the UCL N and S drives and some other systems to reduce the likelihood of further infection,” said UCL’s Information Services Division (ISD). 

“Currently it appears the initial attack was through a phishing email although this needs to be confirmed.  It appears the phishing email was opened by some users around lunchtime today.  The malware payload then encrypted files on local drives and network shared drives.  The virus checkers did not show any suspicious activity and so this could be a zero-day attack.” 

As a result of th suspended use of its shared and networked storage drives, UCL’s is likely to suffer disruption to its daily academic operations. 

The ISD is looking to restore the drive to a previous known working state once the infection has been tackled to bypass the encryption, though this could lead to the loss of data. 

As one of the leading universities in the world, UCL has a veritable treasure trove of academic information, research and valuable projects carried out in conjunction with industry, all of which are of significant value. 

No doubt UCL has robust cyber security systems and policies in place, but the as the flaw was not detected and potentially falls into the category of ‘zero-day’, the university was arguably defenceless against such an attack. 

Public sector organisations appear to be having a horrid time with cyber attacks at the moment, notably with the WannaCry ransomware which wreaked havoc across a large amount of NHS hospitals

There are ways to tackle such threats as Trend Micro told us as Infosecurity 2017, but it requires a good deal of leg work

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