Potential financial impact of British Library ransomware attack estimated at £7m

The British Library is facing significant costs in rebuilding its systems following the Rhysida ransomware attack in October. It is estimated that the cost will range between £6m and £7m, far exceeding the £650,000 ransom demand. This expense will also consume approximately 40% of the library’s unallocated cash reserves.

While the British Library has not formally requested financial assistance from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the government department to which it reports, it has been in communication with them. According to an insider at the DCMS, it is expected that the library will rely on its own financial reserves to cover the expenses.

A spokesperson for the British Library stated that the final costs of recovering from the cyber attack are still uncertain. They confirmed that the library maintains its own financial reserves to handle unexpected issues and has not yet requested additional funding.

The ransomware attack occurred in October 2023, causing the British Library’s website, online systems, on-site services, and operations to be disrupted. In mid-November, it was confirmed as a ransomware attack, and shortly after, the Rhysida ransomware group claimed responsibility. They leaked internal human resources documents and threatened to auction more data.

The breach expanded, and by the end of November, it was confirmed that the stolen data included personal information of readers and visitors. In December, Roly Keating, the library’s chief executive, expressed the shock of the attack, despite preparations against such incidents. He emphasized that the attack goes against the ideals that libraries embody, such as openness, empowerment, and access to knowledge.

As the disruption continues into 2024, it is affecting various aspects of life in the UK. Academics and researchers are unable to complete certain tasks, including grant applications. Additionally, authors are experiencing financial setbacks due to the suspension of public lending right (PLR) payments. PLR payments are small amounts of money paid to authors when their works are borrowed from libraries, and they distributed over £6m in 2023 to authors across the country.

Joanne Harris, chair of the Society of Authors, described the PLR payments as a welcome boost for authors whose works may not be bestsellers or receive significant attention. Author Damian Barr added that the PLR scheme makes a significant difference for writers, especially given declining advances and financially strained publishers.

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