Hackers have broken into the biochemical systems of an Oxford University lab where researchers are working on the study of Covid-19.

Hackers compromised the systems at one of the most advanced biology labs at the Oxford University that is involved in the research on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The news was disclosed by Forbes and the Oxford University confirmed the security breach that impacted the Division of Structural Biology (known as “Strubi”).

“Oxford University confirmed on Thursday it had detected and isolated an incident at the Division of Structural Biology (known as “Strubi”) after Forbes disclosed that hackers were showing off access to a number of systems.” reported Forbes. “These included machines used to prepare biochemical samples, though the university said it couldn’t comment further on the scale of the breach.”

The University notified the authorities, including the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) and the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office.

“We have identified and contained the problem and are now investigating further,” an Oxford University spokesperson said. “There has been no impact on any clinical research, as this is not conducted in the affected area. As is standard with such incidents, we have notified the National Cyber Security Center and are working with them.”

The U.K. ICO confirmed that not patient data was compromised as a result of the security breach.

Forbes first reported the news and revealed it received the news of the breach by Hold Security chief technology officer Alex Holden. Holden provided screenshots showing interfaces for lab equipment, it also speculated that attackers were inside the Lab infrastructure on February 13 and February 14, 2021.

Once breached the biochemical systems of an Oxford University lab the attackers were in the position of stealing research data or sabotage the equipment.

The illustrious professor Alan Woodward speculate the involvement of a cybercrime organization, instead a state-sponsored operation, because the hackers were attempting to sell access to the Lab to third parties.

According to Holden the crew is highly sophisticated and has been privately selling stolen data from a number of organizations. Its customers are also APT groups that could use the data to targete the compromised organizations.

“He noted that the hackers spoke Portuguese. Some of the group’s other victims include Brazilian universities, Holden added, and they also use ransomware to extort some victims.” reported Forbes.

Investigation is still ongoing.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Oxford University lab)

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