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UvA and HvA hackers have not demanded ransom yet

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The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have fallen victim to a cyber attack last week, but thanks to security measures already in place, the damage seems to be limited. The attack is not related to the recent hack of the Dutch Research Council (NWO).

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The Amsterdam institutions have drawn lessons from what happened at Maastricht University in 2019, according to a UvA page with frequently asked questions about the hack. At the time, an unprecedented attack on Maastricht Universitt's ICT systems brought education and research to a complete standstill. In the end, the university had no choice but to pay a ransom of almost 200,000 euros.

Defence
Have the hackers already demanded ranson from the Amsterdam universities? Although that was probably the hackers’ intention, “it hasn’t come to that, at least not yet”, according to UvA. After the attack in Maastricht, UvA set up a special security centre and a computer emergency response team. In addition, users now often have to go through multiple steps to log in. A spokesperson for HvA talked about a similar "line of defence" in student magazine Folia (link in Dutch).

This line of defence seems to be doing a good job: so far, both institutions have experienced only minor disruptions to their education and research. Their ICT staff is working on the issue round the clock behind the scenes, UvA reported in an update.

However, the institutions warn that phishing e-mails with fake measures against the hack are currently circulating. These e-mails ask students and staff to check their accounts or change their password for security reasons.

Infect
An investigation into the cyber attack is underway, which is why neither of the institutions is willing to give further details at the moment. However, they do emphasise that there is no connection with the recent hack of the Dutch Research Council (NWO), whic has also been confirmed by the research financier.

“There were messages circulating calling for e-mail attachments and files received from NWO to be discarded as a precaution, because they could infect other systems or computers”, a spokesperson explained. “But these incidents are unrelated. What is happening now at UvA and HvA has nothing to do with our hack”. She cannot say much more at the moment either. Like the Amsterdam schools, NWO has also launched an investigation and published a list of frequently asked questions on its website.

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