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Ransomware attacks - What you need to know to keep us safe

14 May 2021

Today you will have seen and heard reports in the news about the shutdown of the HSE's national IT system early this morning after it emerged it had been subjected to a ransomware attack overnight.

The HSE Head of Operations has confirmed that this is "zero day threat, a brand new variant of the Conti ransomware, there is no previous experience of this variant" and "If this continues by Monday it will be serious".

This follows similar attacks on two Irish Higher Education Institutions in early April.

Ransomware attacks are causing major disruption and we all must continue to be very vigilant to protect the IT systems we use for teaching, learning and research and their important data.

The cyber attacker is looking for just one person in the University to open the fraudulent email and click on the link that will install their ransomware onto your PC and then onto Trinity’s central IT systems.

The current targeting of ransomware in Ireland highlights that every one of us must remain vigilant and exercise caution particularly around opening attachments and clicking on links in suspicious emails.

Below we have answered six questions regarding ransomware, phishing and how to protect us all against these types of cyber attacks.

1. What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware, where scammers aim to trick their targets into downloading malicious software on their computers in order to encrypt their files or lock them out of their devices. If you fall victim, the scammer demands you pay a ransom to recover your files and/or regain access to your device.

2. What is phishing?

Phishing is a form of online fraud. Scammers use phishing emails to trick you into giving away important information, such as your login details. They can then use these to access your own data, or data that you have access to, putting the entire University at risk.

Learn more about phishing

3. How can I identify a phishing email?

It is easy to be alarmed by a phishing email, they are designed to get us to act without question. They may appear to come from a legitimate business that you have previously dealt with or a colleague. Remember to stay cautious, always take your time and consider the validity of the email.

4. What should I do if I receive a phishing email?

Please report any email that you believe is phishing to the IT Service Desk (itservicedesk@tcd.ie /  +353-1-896-2000) and delete it. Treat any email that asks for your username and password with extreme caution.

5. What should I do if I have fallen for a phishing scam?

If you think you have fallen prey to a phishing email, immediately:

  1. Change your password
  2. Report the incident to the IT Service Desk (itservicedesk@tcd.ie /  +353-1-896-2000)

6. How can I protect my computer, my data and Trinity IT systems?

  • Stay current on software security updates for your devices. To make sure you are up-to-date, you can run a manual installation today. Instructions are available on our 'Software security updates' web page.
  • Make sure you have anti-virus software installed on your devices and ensure they are running up-to-date virus definitions.
  • Backup your data, files and devices regularly - this will help you recover the latest version of any lost or damaged data should you fall victim to ransomware. See our 'Data backup and file management' web page.
  • Do not download or open files from unsolicited emails. If you receive an email with attachments you were not expecting, check with the sender before acting on the email.
  • Remain vigilant and report any unusual activity to the IT Service Desk.