Cyber attack attempts
Incidents resolved manually
Increase compared to 2019
In 2020 alone, Masaryk University detected 121 290 cyberattack attempts. Most of these attempts were thwarted by automated security tools. Nevertheless, 1 494 incidents required manual solutions provided by the Cyber Security Team of Masaryk University (CSIRT-MU). This figure represents a 200 % increase from the previous year.
The first category is state-sponsored attackers. The primary mission of universities is to educate and provide career training, but since a university is a research organization under the Higher Education Act, science and research also play a crucial role. It is the result of cutting-edge research that other countries may desire. For hackers of foreign powers, stealing, manipulating, or destroying such data may be very tempting.
We are talking, for example, about countries that fall under various sanctions. For these countries, hacking attacks can access reputable research and knowledge. Moreover, this is demonstrated by events in recent years. For example, in 2018, Iranian hackers stole scientific papers from prestigious English universities that contained data on nuclear research and cybersecurity. Before the situation came to light, between 2013 and 2018, Iran obtained data from 7,998 professors and 322 universities worldwide.
China, for example, is not far behind. In 2018, Chinese hackers likely attacked two dozen universities in the US. The goal was to obtain research data from universities with potential military applications. However, this is not always military-related research. Other sectors of interest to state hackers include healthcare.
However, the attacker and his motives are not always revealed. In 2021, the University of Oxford's biology lab, where research about the Covid-19 disease was being carried out, was targeted by hackers. It is not clear yet who was behind the attack. Still, the university lab researched coronavirus cells essential for creating other potential Covid vaccines. Thus, the attackers were either trying to foil the research (delete the data) or steal it and further exploit it for another state actor.