Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Iranian hackers behind stolen research from British universities

Research is on sale for as little as £2.

Universities across the Uk have fallen victim to the phishing attempt. Alamy Stock Photo
Universities across the Uk have fallen victim to the phishing attempt. Alamy Stock Photo

British universities including Oxford and Cambridge have fallen victim to Iranian hackers who stole sensitive research.

An investigation by The Telegraph newspaper has found both sensitive and relatively unimportant documents for sale on Farsi-language websites for at little as £2 (Dh 9.60).

The documents, which include details on cybersecurity and nuclear power plants, were stolen via an email phishing scam. The scam sends university email address holders fake emails which take their login details, which are then used to access and download files from academic databases, either randomly or to order on Whatsapp, Telegram or through a website.

Once stolen, the documents are then emailed to the buyer.

Universities in the UK were warned by the country’s National Cyber Security Centre of the potential for Iranian hacks in March this year, but it seems many haven’t taken this advice.


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“Universities should be worrying about it,” Dave Palmer, a former MI5 and GCHQ officer told The Telegraph.

“If you're doing stuff like working on the next helmet-mounted display for the fighter aircraft of the future, that is clearly of interest to adversarial states.”

A spokesman for Cambridge University said: "We are aware of the issue. We are constantly updating our cybersecurity."

Edinburgh University, which has also has documents stolen, said it is currently replacing and improving its computer network.

The hacks come as new sanctions against Iran are due to come into force in November.

Updated: September 15, 2018 05:11 AM