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USQ steps up to protect its computers from worldwide cyberattack

16 May 2017 | Tags:
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The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has acted quickly to prevent the worldwide computer virus “WannaCry” infecting the University’s multimillion dollar computer network.

In an email to all staff, ICT Executive Director Mr Scott Sorley warned of the cyberattack but said the University had been working hard behind the scenes to block the ransomware virus from taking hold.

He said that USQ’s ICT support services had installed a software patch into its network that prevented computer hackers installing the virus onto the University’s several thousand desktop computers.

He said that apart from the system patch, USQ had also updated its antivirus programmes as an added safety net across its network.

The computer virus, which has already crippled an estimated 300,000 of the 2 billion Windows computers worldwide, exploits an opening through the Microsoft operating system by freezing all computer data.

“To unlock a computer users are held at ransom unless 300 bitcoins are paid to as yet an unknown source.”

Mr Sorley said that bitcoin currency is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically.

“No one controls it. They are not like traditional dollars or currency as we know it. Because they are controlled by no single source, with the capacity to use almost every computer system around the world to help launder its value.”

“It runs from a very complicated mathematical formula which uses a computer’s network system to “buy and sell” the internet currency.”

“Because bitcoin is not linked to names, addresses, or other personally identifying information tracking it down is near impossible,” Mr Sorley said.

“Computer networks can use the bitcoin currency to process its own transactions through a virtual world of technology thereby being independent of any central authority.”

Mr Sorley said that bitcoin currency can be used as an alternative to hard currency for online transactions.

“It’s absolutely imperative that all businesses whether they be the mum and small shop or large organisations, regularly update and patch their computers and have in place up-to-date antivirus software that can detect and prohibit viruses like “WannaCry” from taking hold.”

He said that at USQ, computer system security teams are constantly on the alert for network break-ins.