UK’s Cybersecurity Breach: British Library Hit By Ransomware Attack

The British Library is hit by ransomware attack, exposing vulnerabilities in UK's public sector cybersecurity.

What are the implications of the British Library cyber attack?

In a concerning development, the British Library recently fell victim to a significant ransomware attack, raising alarm over the UK's public sector cybersecurity resilience. The attack occurred amidst a growing trend of cyber intrusions, often attributed to foreign state-backed actors.

The library, which holds a vast collection of documents, acknowledged the breach following a major technical outage that began on October 28. This incident underscores the wider vulnerabilities within the UK's critical public infrastructure, including education, healthcare, and local government sectors.

Jamie MacColl, a Royal United Services Institute researcher, pointed out the attackers' focus on less secure government sectors. Despite government investments in cybersecurity, these areas remain underprotected.

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Rhysida: A New Threat On The Cyber Horizon

The hacking group Rhysida claimed responsibility for the British Library breach, announcing a dark web auction of the stolen data. The hackers released blurred images of library employees' passports and set a starting bid of 20 bitcoins (around £600,000 or $700,000) for undisclosed documents.

The British Library, overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has recently faced increased threats from ransomware groups such as Rhysida. This group specifically targets vital infrastructure, echoing the strategies of the Vice Society, a Russia-linked group notorious for attacking US healthcare facilities during the pandemic.

A Rising Wave Of Cybersecurity Challenges

According to the US intelligence, Rhysida first came to prominence in May and is believed to have connections with Vice Society. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in the UK has warned of a persistent and significant threat to IT systems, especially those perceived as aligned with Russian interests.

The Information Commissioner’s Office reported a significant increase in malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks against public entities in the first half of 2023, amounting to over 1,420 incidents. The NCSC advises against ransom payments, advocating for data recovery through backups and other means.

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Legacy Systems: A Lingering Weakness

Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, a cybersecurity expert at the University of Portsmouth, highlighted the vulnerability caused by outdated software systems. Such legacy systems were a key factor in the success of the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which severely impacted the NHS and cost the Department of Health and Social Care an estimated £73 million in data recovery.

The British Library's Chief Executive, Sir Roly Keating, stated that they are currently assessing the attack's impact and working on restoring their online systems. Both the DCMS and the NCSC are actively involved in evaluating the ramifications of the attack.

In response to these growing threats, the UK government allocated £2.6 billion in 2021 for cybersecurity enhancements and legacy IT systems upgrades. Additionally, the National Protective Security Authority, under MI5, was established this year to support businesses and organizations, complementing the efforts of the NCSC formed in 2016.


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