Cambridge Medical School encounters ‘malicious activity’

The University of Cambridge continues to rank among the world’s top universities, with its medical school and vast research facilities among the best. But over the past month, staff at the prestigious medical school have had their work hampered by “malicious activity” on their computer networks.

An email “employee notification” seen by WIRED and believed to have been sent in late February alerted employees to the outage and said the university was working to get systems back online as quickly as possible. Weeks later, however, the incident continues, with little information about its nature being released.

“IT services provided by Clinical School Computing Services (CSCS) have been disrupted by malicious activity,” the email reviewed by Wired said. “We appreciate that some faculty, staff and students have experienced severe disruption to their work and learning; we are grateful to them Patience and understanding.”

The university has confirmed to Wired that its systems have been affected and some services have been voluntarily taken offline, and while it has “contained” the incident, the outage is ongoing and its investigation may take some time to complete. It said no data had been obtained. Britain’s national cybersecurity agency and the country’s data regulator are also investigating the incidents.

An email sent to staff last month said a “critical incident management team” had been set up to handle the response. The email said that at the time the message was sent, access to the local IT network and Wi-Fi was unavailable, and wired internet access in the affected buildings had been turned off, with Wi-Fi to be turned on again that day. the same day.

CSCS provides IT support to staff and researchers at the University’s School of Clinical Medicine. An archived version of its website says it has more than 5,800 devices on its network, and the team provides computers and servers to employees. Emails seen by WIRED said the CSCS also provides services to the Sainsbury’s Department of Laboratory Zoology, which studies plant life; the Stem Cell Institute; and the Milner Institute in the School of Biological Sciences, which studies emerging therapies. Everyone is affected.

A spokesperson for the University of Cambridge confirmed the incident to Wired, saying “malicious activity” was discovered on the clinical school computing service last month. “We took immediate action to contain this incident, including voluntarily shutting down some systems,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “As a result, some services are experiencing ongoing disruption.”

It’s unclear what “malicious activity” means or whether the activity was an attack by criminal hackers or something else. Multiple staff members across the university did not respond to WIRED’s questions about whether their work or research had been disrupted, or they referred questions to the press office because they were not authorized to speak about the incident.

A university spokesperson did not describe the nature of the problem; however, they said business continuity plans had been implemented to minimize disruption and that all other university and college IT systems were operating normally and were not affected. “This may take some time to complete,” the spokesman said of the ongoing investigation. “The investigation found no evidence that data was obtained or transferred without authorization. We also received third-party assurances that the incident was under control.” Since the email, seen by Wired, was sent, they said , things have changed, and it’s impossible to describe the extent of the chaos across all sectors.

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