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The British Library, the world’s most complete library, begins to recover from the biggest cyber attack in its history

The digital service of the most requested book collection by researchers and academics from around the world has been paralyzed for almost three months. Damage reaches millions of dollars

The butterfly effect of the largest cyber attack ever suffered by a public library fluttered in London, leapt in Melbourne and exploded in Rome. That’s how I felt Flavia MarcelloProfessor of Architectural History at Swinburne University of Technology, she is an Australian of Italian origin, married to a British man, and completes her knowledge and experience by traveling like a bear to the capital of the United Kingdom for a month every year. “hibernate.” and digest it for the rest of the year.

This time the situation was different. “My friends had already warned me about the tragedy at the British Library (BL), so I decided to put my field of study aside and focus on other matters. Most of the time I was working in the archives of the Royal Institute of British Architects,” Marcello explains to EL PAÍS.

On October 31, the management of a British public library admitted for the first time that it had suffered a devastating computer attack. Your catalog onlineThe building, which housed nearly 36 million books and nearly 170 million historical documents and objects, was completely destroyed. The library’s access system is unusable for readers and researchers.

Extortion attempt

Rhysida, a strange bunch ransomware, HE attributed author of the attack. ransomware It is a combination between. malware And ransom; This is a software System-corrupting evil whose authors demand ransom to restore normalcy. They have already carried out similar attacks against education, healthcare or government institutions. They even succeeded hack To the Chilean army. The British press stated that the amount requested from BL was around 700 thousand euros.

Roly Keating, the library’s general manager, described it as “a crude extortion attempt”. Keating, who is reluctant to talk to the press, said in his blog: “Our experience over the last two months has revealed a great paradox for all institutions working with human information in the digital age.” cyber attacks. “Our commitment to transparency, free access and exhibition of documents implies the need to embrace all the fantastic possibilities that technology offers us; “But as custodians of our collections, we also face increasing challenges in protecting our digital heritage against possible attacks.”

Aldebrandin of Siena
Illumination of a book by the Sienese physician Aldebrandín (13th century), part of the British Library collection.British Library/Getty Images

Little successful protection as shown. For almost three months, BL patrons were unable to access their digital services or even use the catalog so library staff could get them what they needed. Paralyzed research, stalled work, failure to properly document conferences or presentations.

William White, professor of History at the University of Hertfordshire and an expert on 17th-century Britain, explains: “I am a regular reader and have to come back often to prepare for my talks and lectures.” “In the traditional system, you would request the material from the office or home via BL’s website, and they would promise to prepare it within a maximum of 70 minutes,” he says.

Many of these books or documents are very valuable. The library has reading rooms that can be entered with an accredited pass after all personal items are placed in a clear bag to prevent damage or theft of material.

However, some normalization has been achieved since last Monday. Users can refer back to the catalog of works in the same building and BL staff will search for them. It is still not possible to make a preliminary request from abroad. And material archived at the Boston Spa headquarters in Yorkshire (northern England) cannot yet be requested.

The London library building at King’s Cross was, at the time, the largest volume construction undertaken in the city in the 20th century. It soon turned out to be inadequate. The expansion of Boston Spa, 200 miles away, alleviated the lack of space. Rather than a symbolic building, a logistics warehouse like that of the Amazon company, its 746 kilometers of shelves and system for robotic search of books, documents and objects have eased the pressure on researchers and academics from around the world. Applied to the British library.

Italian snipers

Marcello is an expert on Italian architecture of the fascist period. His last obsession is the statue dedicated to him. BersaglieriIn the Roman square of Porta Pia. bersagliere It means “sniper”. They formed an infantry unit that deployed quickly and nimbly. They cycled everywhere and wore wide-brimmed hats with grouse feathers. Dictator Benito Mussolini, who was worshiped as a symbol of Italy’s unification success, sponsored this statue, which was much loved by the Romans. “Something similar must have happened with Franco’s monuments in Spain, right?” the expert said. he asks. “There are an incredible number of books and documents. Bersaglieri what’s wrong with this BL Department of History and Humanities. That’s why I really wanted to come this year, but I’m almost ready to go back to Australia. Do you know that they even kept one of the first copies of the declaration? Bersagliere Seagull? The bad thing is you have to go to Boston Spa to see it,” says the Australian historian, humming the demonic military anthem.

George Frideric Handel
Beginning of the eleventh scene of the second act of ‘Orlando’, in the autograph manuscript of George Frideric Handel (1732), kept in the British Library.BRITISH LIBRARY

Patent documents, stamps, musical recordings, maps, sheet music, newspapers, magazines, diaries, movie scripts, photographs, letters… BL’s collections are not limited to books. Much of this material has been digitized for easy access. Today, it remains out of reach of researchers for now.

The library contains a Jane Austen desk, a Beethoven tuning fork and one of the first copies of the work. Iliad Homer’s handwritten manuscript Yesterday The Beatles.

Personal and economic damages

The Rhysida group started posting a month after the attack. dark web – deep web accessible only with special browsers – personal data of BL employees and users upon verification that the library did not agree to pay the ransom.

Management contacted partners and researchers via email to alert them to the situation. However, the damage to the system was so great that it did not even make it easy for users to change their passwords. He just asked those using it in other libraries affiliated with BL to replace it.

Of the approximately 20,000 authors whose works were part of the library’s collection, each time a patron borrowed one of their books they were charged 13 pence, up to a maximum of €7,700 per year. To date, payments have been stopped, while system repairs continue.

Newspaper Finance Times He even suggested that a return to normality would cost just over eight million euros, but the BL director stated that it was too early to make that calculation. When services restart slowly onlineLondon’s Metropolitan Police and the National Cyber ​​Security Center are investigating the attack, which significantly damaged the institution’s prestige and became a serious warning for public libraries in the rest of the world.

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Source: El Pais



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