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University College London hit by major ransomware attack

University College London (UCL) has been struck by a major ransomware attack that has left students and staff locked out of their files.

The virus is believed to have spread through UCL’s network after users visited a compromised website yesterday.

Virus checkers failed to notice the malware as it infiltrated UCL’s computers and locked down personal and shared drives.

The university suggested the malware’s ability to evade virus checkers indicates it could be a zero-day attack, a type of virus that exploits a vulnerability not known to the software’s vendors.

While only 12 users’ files were infected, staff took steps to disable access to drives across the university until the malware is removed from the system.

“Our current hypothesis is that the malware infection occurred through users visiting a website that had been compromised rather than being spread via email attachments,” UCL said in a statement online. “However this remains unconfirmed at the moment.”

A spokesperson told New Statesman Tech that the malware has now largely been contained.

The Guardian reported that hospitals closely linked to University College London Hospitals Trust, such as Barts Health NHS Trust and East and North Hearts NHS Trust had temporarily closed their NHS mail servers as a preventative measure.

The attack on UCL comes weeks after WannaCry ransomware paralysed NHS trusts and thousands more organisations around the world.