Strubi

Oxford confirmed its Division of Structural Biology, known as Strubi, had been hit by a cyber attack but stressed that its clinical studies had not been compromised (pictured)
Hackers have breached the biomedical systems of an Oxford University laboratory doing vital research into Covid.

Oxford confirmed its Division of Structural Biology, known as Strubi, had been hit by a cyber attack but stressed that its clinical studies had not been compromised.

GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has been alerted and will assist with an investigation.

Strubi is not behind the successful Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine - created by the university's Jenner Institute - but is a world-leading laboratory carrying out research on Covid cells.

Experts mooted the possibility hackers were trying to harvest valuable data about the vaccine.

An Oxford University spokesperson said: 'We have identified and contained the problem and are now investigating further.

'There has been no impact on any clinical research, as this is not conducted in the affected area.

'As is standard with such incidents, we have notified the National Cyber Security Centre and are working with them.'

Screenshots of the cyber breach seen by Forbes reportedly show interfaces that can control the pressure gauges on lab equipment used prepare biochemical samples.

Time stamps on the monitors show show the infiltration took place on February 13 and 14.

Any possible leads on the identity of the hackers or what their aim was has not been disclosed.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at Surrey University, said 'one might speculate that it was someone searching for data about the virus or the vaccine.'

Last year Interpol warned that criminal gangs would likely try to infiltrate institutions to extract data about the vaccine.

An NCSC spokesperson said: 'We are aware of an incident affecting Oxford University and are working to fully understand its impact.

'The university has confirmed that there has been no impact on any clinical research.'

While not directly involved in creating the Oxford vaccine, Strubi has been conducting research on the virus.

It counts among its scientists Professor Sir Dave Stuart, who was knighted in the New Year's Honours list for his work on coronavirus.