SRU offers tips to prevent cyberattacks

Cyber criminal lurnking online in the dark

The Slippery Rock University community is asked to be on alert for potential cyberattacks after last week’s global cyberattack, known as “WannaCry,” affected users worldwide.

May 17, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Despite a global cyberattack that shut down hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, there have been no reported machines affected, or data lost, at Slippery Rock University. However, University officials warn that the campus community should remain on "high alert."

Reports of a software virus known as "WannaCry" began circulating May 12. A form of "ransomware," the virus allows computer hackers to encrypt most or all of the files on a user's computer before demanding a ransom be paid to have the filed decrypted.

In this case, victims of WannaCry were told to pay a ransom of $300 in bitcoins at the time of infection. If users didn't comply with the payment demand within three days, the amount would double to $600. After seven days without payment, WannaCry threatens to delete all of the encrypted files.

In addition, the virus has the potential to spread to other computers that are connected to a network.

john ziegler

   ZIEGLER

John Ziegler, associate provost for information and administrative technology services, confirmed May 17 that SRU's network was not compromised and there were no reports of individual machines used by students, faculty or staff being affected.

"We have different layers of security in place but we still are dependent on people to be vigilant," Ziegler said. "It just takes one person to do something."

Perpetrators use a method called "phishing" by sending an email with a link or attachment that, once clicked by the recipient, will spread the virus to the computer and or its network.

"What we always tell people is if you don't know what the link is or what that attachment is, don't click on it," Ziegler said, referring to security training that the University offers.

In response to the threat, SRU officials have taken the necessary steps to verify and audit its network and computers, while also deploying an updated "patch," designed to update a computer program to fix or improve security vulnerabilities. Even though the "WannaCry" virus only affects older versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems, SRU's IATS staff updated the patches for an additional measure of protection.

Ziegler offers the following advice to prevent a cyberattack:

-Do not open email or attachments from unknown sources.

-Do not click on links in emails unless you are absolutely sure of their validity.

-Only visit or download software from websites you trust.

-Back up your data.

-Never click "yes," "accept" or even "cancel" if an unknown pop-up window appears on your screen. Click the 'X' in the upper corner.

-Always use a secure browser for your online activities by looking for web addresses that begin with "https://" instead of "http."

-Frequently delete temp files, cookies, history or saved passwords from your browser.

Students, faculty and staff that have any concerns related to cybersecurity are asked to contact the IATS Help Desk at: 724.738.4357 or helpdesk@sru.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu