Unfortunately, we were faced with a double lockdown at NWO in mid-February. Not only did we have the coronavirus to contend with, but we were also the victims of a ransomware attack by the international hacker organisation DoppelPaymer. The attacker blocked network drives, rendered documents inaccessible and stole some of our files. Following a demand for a ransom, which NWO cannot and will not accept on principle, the organisation published some of the stolen files. That threat is still looming, incidentally. DoppelPaymer is likely to publish more stolen documents.
It goes without saying that this has been a tense and turbulent time. This is particularly the case for employees involved in the situation, not to mention all of the researchers and scientists we were temporarily unable to assist – and who now have to contend with new schedules and deadlines. Fortunately, NWO has been operational again since 22 March, and while relaunching we were able to consult with representatives of our applicants. We hope we have found the best possible solution for relaunching and will of course continue to make every effort to overcome any problems.
A crisis like this shows how relative security and cybersecurity are. Many organisations currently face this kind of modern piracy. And of course you have to do everything you can to defend yourself against it. At the same time, it may be an illusion to think that you can always escape unscathed. Unfortunately. That much has become clear to me. Cybercrime is a new threat against which we must arm ourselves even more effectively. Technically, in terms of awareness and in terms of behaviour. And possibly with further research.
Uncertainty is inextricably linked to science. Driven by curiosity, we search for new knowledge, not knowing what the outcome will be. The one certainty we have is that there is always more knowledge to be gained. Uncertainty at the hands of criminals is something we can all do without. We will therefore do everything we can to serve science to the best of our ability after the hack, that much is certain!
Vice president and portfolio holder of Operations and Finances with the Executive Board of NWO