British Library websites offline for weeks after cyberattack

Difficulties in access to online and physical collections at UK’s national library persist following ransomware incident

November 15, 2023
British Library

Many of the British Library’s digital services – including its online repository of thousands of PhD dissertations – are likely to remain inaccessible for weeks after it was hit by a cyberattack.

The iconic library in St Pancras said its website and online systems, such as its public wi-fi, are facing considerable disruption because of a “major technology outage” following a “ransomware attack by a group known for such criminal activity”.

“We anticipate restoring many services in the next few weeks, but some disruption may persist for longer,” the library said on 14 November.

The UK’s national library said it had taken “protective measures in response to the attack to ensure the integrity of our systems”, adding that a “forensic investigation with the support of the National Cyber Security Centre, the Metropolitan Police and cybersecurity specialists” had been launched.

The attack is believed to have occurred in late October, with users reporting difficulties accessing collections and the website for several weeks.

In addition to limiting access to its online catalogue of more than 57 million records, the attack has brought down the EThOS service, which holds more than 600,000 PhD theses. Most UK universities require doctoral graduates to deposit an electronic version of their dissertation upon completion.

The incident also affected access to physical collections and archives at the Euston Road library in London, which has been described as “very limited”. Only temporary reading passes can be issued at the moment, and the library is accepting only cash payments for on-site tickets for its new exhibition, Fantasy: Realms of Imagination, though online bookings are still available.

Digitisation services are also currently unavailable.

However, some of the library’s digitised research resources, including the Artstor digital library, remain accessible, as do its library catalogue functions and various library blogs.

British Library events will continue to take place as planned, with author Neil Gaiman due to speak at the library on 20 and 21 November.

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Reader's comments (1)

The BL's "library catalogue functions" are not in fact available and haven't been since the attack.