Oxford University confirmed today (Aug. 30) that its online security had been compromised earlier in the day by a cyberattack. The group claiming responsibility said it is associated with Anonymous.
The attack came a day after the disruption of Cambridge University's network.
Oxford said hackers gained access to a server owned by the physics department and that "a file or two were read," one of which contained a password to a database of already published research, TechWeekEurope reported.
While the university insisted no sensitive information was accessed or stolen, Oxford officials acknowledged that the attack was a sign that they need to bolster their network security.
The same attacker compromised the website of a member of Parliament, Peter Hain.
The moves are thought to be a part of #OpFreeAssange, an initiative to attack networks affiliated with or close to the British government. Anonymous operatives hacked Cambridge University's network yesterday and several British government sites last week in an effort to persuade the government to let WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave the country unhampered. Assange, sought by authorities in Sweden, has been staying in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in an attempt to avoid arrest and extradition.
One Anonymous UK member didn't believe the Oxford hackers are really Anonymous affiliates. A TechWeekEurope source inside Anonymous said "rogue hackers," likely from Brazil, were really behind the attack.
But who's to decide who Anonymous is and who isn't? The nature of the group is such that hackers can choose to belong, or not belong, at will. The leaderless organization makes its disparate structure a point of pride and security.