Oxford University has confirmed that one of its laboratories involved in COVID-19 research suffered cyberattack after an investigation by Forbes suggested that hackers were showing off access to a number of systems.
The university on February 25, however, said that there has been “no impact” on any clinical research.
The hack is understood to have taken place in the middle of the month, but it is not clear who is behind the attack.
The affected laboratory, Division of Structural Biology (known as ‘Strubi’), is not directly involved in the development of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.
Scientists at the laboratory have been involved in studying in the working mechanism of COVID-19 cells and how to prevent them from causing harm.
The affected systems in the attack included machines used to prepare biochemical samples, said the Forbes report.
“We have identified and contained the problem and are now investigating further,” an Oxford University spokesperson was quoted as saying.
The university is working with authorities in Britain for further investigation into the attack.
The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), a branch of the British intelligence agency GCHQ, will now investigate the attack, said the report.
The university has made the UK Information Commissioner’s Office aware of the incident, according to a spokesperson.
The development comes at a time when cyberattacks on the healthcare sector has seen a spike.
The US, British and Canadian security services last year alleged that a hacking group believed to be operating as part of Russian intelligence services was targeting organisations involved in COVID-19 vaccine development.
Russia’s ambassador to Britain then rejected the claims that his country’s intelligence service attempted to steal information about a COVID-19 vaccine.