The recent cyber attack attempt on NUI Galway has caused many disruptions to the running of the university.

As a precautionary measure, the college disconnected its campus network from the internet.

This resulted in students and staff being unable to access the university’s learning material platform, take part in online lectures or connect to the internet on campus.

Following recent cyber attacks on other organisations, it is important for students to know how these criminals operate.

Why cyber crime?

Ransomware is the reason for most cyber crime attacks. This means that the attacker tricks you into downloading malicious software and, once you do, the attacker encrypts your files and locks you out of your device.

In order to decrypt your device, the cyber criminals demand you pay a ransom.

How do cyber criminals operate?

Most cyber criminals operate via phishing emails. Phishing emails aim to steal important data, such as login details, by getting you to enter your credentials or download malicious software by clicking on a link or an attachment.

Once your data is accessed by the criminals, it enables them to access data you have access to as well, such as the college network. This puts your university under the cyber attack too.

Universities are good targets for cyber attacks, because a lot of files are shared between different parties.

Cyber criminals make their phishing emails look as if they have been sent by a colleague or someone you have dealt with previously.

What to do and what not to do

Being asked to enter your login details in an email is a red flag. Never enter your login details when asked to do so via an email before you have checked with the sender if the required action is legitimate.

Being cautious is key and it is better to contact your university’s IT service desk if you feel the least bit unsure.

Be alert when being faced with email attachments and links.

Because cyber criminals try to make it seem as if it came from a trustworthy source, watch out for attention-grabbing email text or subject lines such as ‘urgent update’ or ‘open immediately’. Again, always check with the sender.

Other general laptop maintenance to follow is to always have an active anti-virus software installed, back up files and devices consistently and install software security updates when required.

Actions required when you are the victim

Should you have fallen for a phishing email, immediately change your password and report the incident to your university’s IT service desk. Let the IT team handle the incident and don’t try to solve it yourself.

If you think that you have received a phishing email, report it to the university’s IT team and thereby protect others from falling victim. Then delete the email.

It is always better to be cautious, so report any communications you consider illegitimate to your university.

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