The British Library is bringing its master catalogue, containing 36 million printed and rare materials, maps, journals and musical scores back online, 11 weeks after a catastrophic cyber attack.
However, access is limited to a ‘read-only’ format, and full restoration of services provided by the UK National Library may take until the end of the year.
“The full restoration of all our services will be a gradual process,” Sir Roly Keating, the library’s chief executive, said in a statement. blog post last week.
He apologized that “for two months, researchers who depend for their studies and, in some cases, their livelihood, on access to the library’s collections have been deprived of it.”
Rhysida, a known ransomware group, claimed responsibility for the October 31 attack. In November, the library confirmed that some of its employee data had been stolen in the attack and was being offered for sale on the dark web.
The library’s main catalog, an important tool for researchers around the world, has been inaccessible online since the hack.
Keating said: “Its absence from the internet has perhaps been the most visible impact of the criminal cyberattack… and I want to recognize how difficult it has been for all of our users. »
Restoring the main catalog online will allow users to search for materials, but the process of checking availability and ordering materials for use in the library’s reading rooms will be different, Keating said. Further details are expected to be provided on Monday.
Readers will also regain access to most of the library’s major special collections, including archives and manuscripts, but will “for the time being” need to come in person to view the offline versions of the specialist catalogs.
“While processes may be slower and more manual than we are all used to, this is the familiar heart of the library’s offering to researchers and restores a vital part of our public service. It will be good to have it back,” Keating said.
“There are still many steps to take,” he added. “The wider program of full technical reconstruction and recovery from the attack will take time. »
The library hoped to make progress in restoring access to content held at its site in Boston Spa, near Leeds, and to parts of its digital collections which are not available.
“It’s been a sobering few months for all of us at the British Library,” Keating said. He apologized for the library’s failure to protect the personal data of users and staff.
Earlier this month, the The Financial Times stated that the library would be forced to spend up to £7m – around 40% of its reserves – to rebuild its digital services. The FT said the library refused to pay a £600,000 ransom.
Keating said: “Recent press speculation about the possible cost of the stimulus package was premature as we have not yet confirmed what the total cost will be. »
He said the library was putting in place workaround systems to ensure payments to authors relating to books borrowed from public libraries would be paid by the end of March.
The BL runs the UK’s public lending right system which pays authors 13p, up to a maximum of £6,600 a year, each time their books are borrowed.
Keating said: “We understand the vital importance of these payments to those who rely on them, and many have understandably been concerned since the cyberattack about the impact on this year’s process. »
The library will provide more details by the end of January, he said.
To deal with the aftermath of the cyberattack, the library worked closely with the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), the Metropolitan Police, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and other cybersecurity specialists.
The NCSC said ransomware is the “leading cyber threat facing the UK” and organizations must “put robust defenses in place to protect their networks”.