Puzzling burglary in the Kruyt building

Archive footage Kruyt building. Photo DUB

The burglary took place last Saturday in several rooms on the top three floors of the Kruyt building and was discovered on Sunday. It turned out that memory cards and processors had been stolen from out of several computers. On Monday, the police carried out a forensic investigation in which several rooms were cordoned off. Camera images were also reviewed.

During a council meeting on Monday, the Faculty Board of Science said it did not yet have a complete overview of what had happened. In the next few days, the affected Beta staff members will take stock of exactly what has been stolen.

However, it is now clear that this is not a "regular" burglary. It seems as if it was a well-prepared act, with a targeted search for specific items. For example, a valuable laptop was not taken. "We're really shocked," Dean Isabel Arends said.

At first sight, the burglary appears to have some similarities with the burglary in two buildings of the University of Twente at the end of January. Back then, burglars also took the time to steal computer parts.

Crime on demand
The Utrecht professor Albert Heck also has the impression that the burglars knew what they were looking for in the Kruyt building. This weekend, he was able to take a look at his labs and offices on the sixth floor under the supervision of the security guard.

The computers of a dozen or so employees in different rooms were opened to remove the internal memory cards, processors and - in a very limited number of cases - the hard disks. Other devices in the laboratories were ignored. "You get the impression that this was a crime on demand."

Heck doesn't dare to speculate why criminals have targeted those kind of computer parts. Although he is shocked as well, he thinks the damage to his research is limited. The Spinoza winner's group has backups of all research data and the hard drives were encrypted. Moreover, he does not think that the research data are of direct value to outsiders. 

"All we need to worry about is that login credentials or other privacy-sensitive information may now have fallen into the hands of potentially malicious parties."

More security
Albert Heck has not yet heard from colleagues on the upper floors of the Kruyt building what has been stolen. An important question for him is how the burglars got in and went unnoticed for quite a long time.

"Normally, there are people working here in our lab on weekends. Due to the corona measures this is not the case now; our labs are in lockdown. The burglars may have made use of that deliberately. You would expect the university to pay more attention to security right now, but I don't know if that really is the case."

According to a UU spokesperson, the question of how the burglars were able to enter the Kruyt building unhindered is included in the police investigation. The university says it does not make any statements about the extent to which buildings are secured and does not want to say whether or not security has been stepped up because of the corona measures.

*Update April 24th*
An inventory shows that parts of 22 computers have been stolen, according to a spokesperson for the UU. There is no data breach. There are backups of the research data, which were all encrypted. The police investigation is still ongoing, but "everything points to theft of marketable hardware".