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Comment from Webroot on Oxford University coronavirus research lab targeted in cyber attack

February 2021 by Nick Emanuel, Director of Product at Webroot

Oxford University is investigating a cyber-attack after one of its Covid-19 research laboratories was reportedly hacked. The breach is said to have taken place in mid-February and occurred at the Division of Structural Biology, known as Strubi, researching the virus.

The commentary from Nick Emanuel, Director of Product at Webroot on this attack:

“The rise in attacks on healthcare research institutions is unfortunately not surprising as medical and related industries continue to be a common target for cybercriminals as they advance their tactics to react to widespread Covid-19 vaccination programmes and the opportunity this brings. Information related to pioneering clinical research is likely to be very valuable to criminals. It would command high prices on the dark web, as it could be used for criminal activities or sold to unscrupulous government entities, via intermediaries, who wish to enhance their expertise on the pandemic.

In order to limit the impact of these attacks, institutions that hold private information should ensure they have clearly defined security policies and procedures to avoid the leak of information. This starts with employee education, which underscores all effective cyber resilience and data protection strategies. Comprehensive best practice guides are critical to protecting information, especially when holding sensitive data on research.

Data must also always be securely backed up, so systems can be restored if needed, and finally, multi-layered cybersecurity controls must be deployed to help detect or block anything that breaches the first line of defence – the people of the organisation.”

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