Okay this wasn’t the best year but I don’t see my self like Ebenezer Scrooge. The story tale of his redemption by three spirits the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. But, there are similarities, as you will see. I will tell my story.

The Ghost of the Past

My story begins at Christmas Eve 24 December 2019 A cyber attack was discovered on the night from Monday to Tuesday. Maastricht University no longer has access to scientific data and is investigating whether cyber attackers do have access. That data is extra secured. The online library and the Student Portal are not available.

This is an attack with the so-called Clop ransomware. Once a Clop virus has entered a network, it encrypts as many files as possible. Victims can then receive instructions to pay a ransom via an email address. Hackers often use ransomware just before a weekend or vacation to maximize impact. It will certainly take some time for the infected systems to work as usual.

Maastricht University had decided to pay the ransom, after carefully considering the alternatives. If they hadn’t paid, they would have had to rebuild the entire IT network. This would have caused a lot of damage to the work of students and employees and much work would have been idle for longer.

The ransom of 30 bitcoin, worth 197,000 euros, was paid by the university. After payment, the hackers gave university cyber experts the key to regain their system access.

Five weeks after the attack, work is almost back to normal for most employees. Students can take classes, take exams, access the online library and more. On January 27, 2020, access to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) was also restored, but only for employees.

The Ghost of the Present

In December there 2019 there was another monster rising.  A cluster of symptoms of “pneumonia of unknown origin” was observed in the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan. The virus was first identified in January. In the months that followed, millions of people worldwide became infected, of whom more than 800,000 patients died from the effects of the virus. The corona pandemic, corona crisis or COVID-19 pandemic is the worldwide spread in 2020 of the disease COVID-19 and its profound consequences for society. The causative agent is SARS-CoV-2, a corona virus new to humans, presumably derived from an animal host. Since March 11, 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak has been recognised as a pandemic by the WHO. Social life in a significant part of the world largely came to a halt, triggering a recession.

In October the virus came back. It was the so called second wave and on top of that it mutated. The Rapid increase of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with multiple spike protein mutations where observed in the United Kingdom.

Over the last few weeks, the United Kingdom (UK) has faced a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in South East England, leading to enhanced epidemiological and virological investigations. Analysis of viral genome sequence data identified a large proportion of cases belonged to a new single phylogenetic cluster. The new variant is defined by multiple spike protein mutations (deletion 69-70, deletion 144, N501Y, A570D, D614G, P681H, T716I, S982A, D1118H) present as well as mutations in other genomic regions. While it is known and expected that viruses constantly change through mutation leading to the emergence of new variants, preliminary analysis in the UK suggests that this variant is significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with an estimated potential to increase the reproductive number (R) by 0.4 or greater with an estimated increased transmissibility of up to 70%. This new variant has emerged at a time of the year when there has traditionally been increased family and social mixing. There is no indication at this point of increased infection severity associated with the new variant. A few cases with the new variant have to date been reported by Denmark and the Netherlands and, according to media reports, in Belgium.

The Ghost of the Yet to Come

the story transformed Scrooge by the spirits into a better person who changed his ways to become more friendly and less miserly. For me the corona crisis brought me some insight in the way we are living, the way we spend our time and what’s important and what is not. Maybe I don’t wan to go back to the old “normal” maybe we can create a better new “normal”.

Nevertheless the situation we are in now and how long it’s going to take, I want to wish you happy holiday’s and a happy new year. Stay save, watch out for each other and the most vulnerable.