23 June 2022

Eternal Blue, a reminder of the cyber attack

Recently, a work of art commemorating the cyber attack of 23 December 2019 has been on display in the main hall of the Aula at the Minderbroedersberg. In collaboration with the Arts and Heritage Committee, artist Richard Vijgen has created an installation that depicts the vulnerability of our world to digital threats.

Eternal Blue is a screen in the shape of a clock or globe. Thousands of illuminated LED lights portray the approximately 10,000 attempts to hack Maastricht University that happen every day from all over the world. The colours represent the different countries where the attacks originate. Almost in real-time, the ever-changing image of Eternal Blue shows that cyber security is a constant struggle that demands our attention.

(the text continues below the photographs)

The cyber attack, which became known on Christmas Eve 2019, hit the university community hard. Researchers and students were unable to access their emails and files, all of which were being held hostage. Behind the scenes, during the Christmas holidays and afterwards, people worked hard to secure data and access the encrypted systems. In the end, UM was forced to pay the ransom. At the same time, UM decided to be as open as possible about the hack in order to draw attention to cyber crime and how to fight it. Within UM, the attack has become a part of our collective memory.

After the UM’s ordeal, many other organisations have had to - and continue to - deal with this form of crime. For years, security experts have warned of the threat of cyber crime; and cyberattacks also play a prominent role in wartime violence.

The artwork not only recalls what happened in 2019, but makes us aware of the vulnerability of the world we live in. Eternal Blue poetically shows a harsh reality that largely goes unseen. Every few minutes a new dataset is loaded that illustrates the cyber attack attempts of the past 24 hours. The title is derived from the software the cyber criminals used to penetrate the critical systems of Maastricht University: EternalBlue.

Curator: Mieke Derickx
Text: Barbara Strating
Photo's: Philip Driessen 

Richard Vijgen (1982) works as an artist and designer in Arnhem. His work focuses on the artistic representation of data, drawing particular attention to this aspect of reality which usually remains invisible. The work of Studio Richard Vijgen is exhibited internationally in leading museums, biennales and research institutes.