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Cyber-attack against Open University of Cyprus

29/03/2023 09:04

Restoring the e-learning platform is top priority, Rector of the Open University of Cyprus (OUC), Petros Pashiardis, said speaking to CNA regarding the "serious", as he described it, incident of cyber attack against it that started on Monday morning. The Open University's systems have since been taken down as a precaution until the incident is dealt with, he added.

The University will communicate with students and staff through Social Media for now, he said, as emails are down. The Rector noted that students will receive specific information regarding educational procedures.

It was "our first priority that distance education at the University continue as uninterrupted as possible, because this is the main way of education at the University," he noted.

Pashiardis said that ways have been found for professors to contact their students within the next 1-2 days, adding that where there were deadlines for submitting assignments, the corresponding extensions will be given.

So far no malicious damage has been detected, the Rector said. "We are in the internal investigation stage, but at this time we have no indications" that data was compromised, noting that the incident is still being handled. Asked if any threat or demand for ransom had been made, he replied that "at the moment no, I don't have such information."

Asked when systems are expected to be restored, he said that it is still too early to know. "As I have been informed by IT Services, in order to be very careful, we are taking it one step at a time, so this process of getting back to normal will take time," he explained. He reiterated that the priority is to restore the distance learning platform and the educational process, which is expected to happen within the next few days.

A possible connection between the three cyberattacks is being investigated

Communications Commissioner George Michaelides, who in also in charge of the Digital Security Authority, told CNA that the incident at the Open University of Cyprus is under investigation. 

He noted that it is also under investigation as to whether the three cyber attacks that occurred recently at the University of Cyprus, the Department of Land and Surveys and now the Open University of Cyprus are connected.

"The forensic part takes a lot of time, sometimes it takes months and sometimes you get nowhere," he noted, adding that the forensic analysis that is done once the attack is over and services are restored is a very difficult and time-consuming process.

Michaelides did not wish to comment at this stage whether there are common characteristics between the three attacks. "What we are looking at is whether there is any connection between them. Every attack leaves some sort of identity behind," he said, adding that this type of evidence is what the authority collects to see if there is any connection.