In 2019, Maastricht University was hit by a large cyberattack in which hackers used ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks valuable data and can only be accessed once the victim pays a ransom amount to access their systems. The hackers encrypted their servers and backup systems, which prevented 25,000 students and employees from accessing some data, the library, and mail. The university gave in to the hackers’ demands and paid the requested demand of EUR 200,000 in bitcoins under the threat of losing personal data, and students were also unable to write exams or continue their studies. However, as per recent reports, the university received some of its money back and has doubled in value since the attack.
In 2020, investigators traced part of the ransom, which was paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine. This account was then seized, and it was revealed that it contained several cryptocurrencies, including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht University. It is reported that the money has increased in value in the two years since the attack, and the university will now receive EUR 500 000.
The university has decided that the recovered money will go towards assisting students who are in need.
The investigation into the hackers who attacked the university is still underway at this stage.
– Kelly Lekaise (Candidate Attorney at PPM Attorneys, South Africa)
Edited by – Sabrina Bath