Image Credit: Alex Watson

Bodleian services still impacted by British Library cyber attack

The online services of the Bodleian Libraries continue to be disrupted by the cyberattack committed against the British Library.

Until 15th January, the main catalogue of the British Library was unavailable online, which affected a significant amount of content available via the Bodleian’s SOLO service. The current online version is read-only, which gives a snapshot of what is available as of April 2023. The catalogue excludes data including audio and visual content and manuscripts.

Oxford students who require access to legal deposit items are currently being encouraged by the Bodleian to fill out a Recommend a Purchase form if said item is not available on SOLO. Library Hub Discover, a list of UK-wide academic and specialist library catalogues, can also be used to obtain details of alternative locations for items.

As the Bodleian is one of six legal deposit libraries in the UK, it is entitled to a digital copy of all works published electronically in the country. The attack made all these digital copies unavailable to Oxford students and researchers for almost three months.

The read-only catalogue has restored a lot of items but electronic legal deposit content remains unavailable. Other British Library services, including EThOS (the UK’s national thesis service) and British Library inter-library requests, also continue to be affected.

In an update published on the British Library‚Äôs blog on 9th February, their Chief Executive Sir Roly Keating announced that an ‚Äúindicative timeline‚ÄĚ for the restoration of the library‚Äôs key services will be shared later this month. This will include access to collection items at the library‚Äôs Boston Spa site and further access to their digital collections.

The cyber attack was perpetrated by the Russia-affiliated ransomware group Rhysida in October 2023. They demanded a ransom of 20 bitcoin, around £596,000 at the time, to restore the British Library’s online services and return their stolen data. When the British Library refused to pay, Rhysida released approximately 600GB of leaked data to the public.

Rhysida’s attack left the British Library without over 10 million journal articles and almost 800,000 books, journals, maps, and music scores for 11 weeks. The full restoration of online systems is expected to take several months. In January the Financial Times reported that it could cost the British Library £7 million (around 40% of their reserves) to completely recover their systems.

A spokesperson for the Bodleian Libraries provided The Oxford Student with the following comment: “As many students will be aware, the British Library suffered an major cyber-attack last year, which has significantly impacted services and access to digital materials received through the legal deposit privilege across all UK legal deposit libraries, including non-print legal deposit books, scores, journal articles and issues, and the UK web archive.

“We understand how unsettling service disruptions can be, particularly around milestone moments of study and regret any inconvenience caused. In order to help lessen the impact of this event on our readers, we have developed, where possible, other routes to access materials that are currently unavailable. We ask that you contact your subject librarian if you need access to an electronic Legal Deposit item.

“We want to assure our readers that we are working with the British Library to do everything we can to fix the situation and restore electronic Legal Deposit services as soon as possible.

“An update on service provision improvements will be shared later this month by the British Library. In the meantime, we recommend readers visit our libguide to see potential alternative routes to locate content.”

Image Credit: Alex Watson

Image Description: the British Library book curve