Hackers take down the servers of the Dutch Research Council

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The Dutch Research Council (NWO) announced that hackers have infiltrated its servers. SIA, an independent organisation promoting the quality of practical research at universities of applied sciences, and the National Coordinating Body for Educational Research (NRO) were also hit. The network is down and no one knows yet how long the disruption will last.

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All of the applications on the NWO network are blocked at the moment, the NWO announced on its website, which is about the only thing left untouched by the hack. All of NWO’s e-mail addresses have been intercepted, and the same goed for the e-mails of SIA and NRO.

Fortunately, the application ISAAC, which is used to process grant applications, is run on an external server and seems not to be infected. For security reasons, NWO has blocked all user access to this server for the time being.

Grant procedures delayed
A great deal of of NWO's work has been disrupted because of the hack. Several rounds for applications had their deadlines postponed. For other rounds, the deadline has already passed but assessments cannot go ahead yet.

The NWO will be investigating how and when grant procedures can get back up and running in the coming weeks. The organisation guarantees that it is doing everything in its power to repair the damage. However, it does not want to make any further comments about how the hack was carried out or the further measures they might be planning to take to correct the problem and avoid similar attacks in the future.

No one knows what the hackers want from NWO. The problem is reminiscent of Maastricht University -- a year ago, hackers held their servers hostage. The university paid a ransom to regain access to the servers.

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