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Museum world hit by cyber attack on widely used software

Museum world hit by cyber attack on widely used software

Several major museums have been unable to display their collections online after a cyberattack on a major technology services provider that helps hundreds of cultural organizations showcase their works digitally and manage internal documents.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas were among the institutions that confirmed their systems had experienced outages in recent days.

Service provider, gallery system, said in a recent message to customers, obtained by The New York Times, that it noticed a problem on Dec. 28, when computers running its software became encrypted and could no longer function. . “We immediately took steps to isolate those systems and implemented measures to prevent additional systems from being affected, including taking systems offline as a precaution,” the company said in the message. “We also launched an investigation and engaged third-party cybersecurity experts to assist. Additionally, we notified law enforcement.

Gallery Systems did not immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Signs of disruption were evident on several museum websites as e-museum, a tool that usually lets visitors search the collection online, was closed. There was disruption behind the scenes, too: some curators said they returned from their winter vacations and found themselves unable to access sensitive information from another gallery system program. tms, That system may include names of donors, loan agreements, provenance records, shipping information, and storage locations for priceless artifacts.

“We noticed power outages starting Dec. 28,” said Rubin Museum spokeswoman Sandrine Millet. “TMS was back up and running yesterday while the eMuseum is still closed.”

T. Barton Thurber, director of the Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, said, “I can confirm that unfortunately our museum – along with many others – has been affected by the attack.”

“We are most concerned about the public's inability to benefit from remote viewing of our collections during this disruption,” said Paige Francis, chief information officer of Crystal Bridges.

According to some security experts, cyberattacks against cultural groups are becoming more common. in November, personal data The ransomware was stolen from the British Library by the group, which posted images of internal human resources files. Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra They also suffered cyberattacks last winter, disrupting their ability to sell tickets online.

In many cases these attacks have come from ransomware groups that hold online services hostage until victims pay a sum of money. The nature of the attack on the gallery system was unclear.

Some museums that rely on the gallery system — including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art — said they were not affected because they host their own databases.

It was not immediately clear how widespread the cyberattack was, or what its full impact would be.

“The objects in museums are valuable, but the information about them is really priceless,” said Erin Thompson, professor of art criminology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “Often, generations of curators will have worked to research and document an artwork. If this information were lost, our knowledge of the world would be a huge blow.”



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