Universities ignore growing concern over Sci-Hub cyber risk

“According to The Washington Post, Elbakyan, nicknamed the Robin Hood of science, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for suspected criminal acts and espionage.

Elbakyan denies any wrongdoing, but scholarly publishers such as Elsevier have used news of her investigation to call on academic institutions to block access to Sci-Hub — not because the site is illegal, but because it poses a security threat. Several large publishers, including Elsevier, have successfully sued Sci-Hub for mass copyright infringement in recent years. The Sci-Hub repository contains more than 80 million research articles, including a large proportion of Elsevier’s catalog….

PSI, a company based in Britain that offers tools and services to protect scholarly copyright, maintains a list of web addresses associated with Sci-Hub, which institutions can download and use to block access to the site on campus.

Andrew Pitts, CEO and co-founder of PSI, said that so far, few U.S. institutions have downloaded the block list. Pitts, who has been writing about Sci-Hub’s links to Russian military intelligence for several years, said he struggled to understand why universities are not taking more immediate steps to protect their networks. “This is a matter of urgency,” he said….”

Universities ignore growing concern over Sci-Hub cyber risk

“According to The Washington Post, Elbakyan, nicknamed the Robin Hood of science, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for suspected criminal acts and espionage.

Elbakyan denies any wrongdoing, but scholarly publishers such as Elsevier have used news of her investigation to call on academic institutions to block access to Sci-Hub — not because the site is illegal, but because it poses a security threat. Several large publishers, including Elsevier, have successfully sued Sci-Hub for mass copyright infringement in recent years. The Sci-Hub repository contains more than 80 million research articles, including a large proportion of Elsevier’s catalog….

PSI, a company based in Britain that offers tools and services to protect scholarly copyright, maintains a list of web addresses associated with Sci-Hub, which institutions can download and use to block access to the site on campus.

Andrew Pitts, CEO and co-founder of PSI, said that so far, few U.S. institutions have downloaded the block list. Pitts, who has been writing about Sci-Hub’s links to Russian military intelligence for several years, said he struggled to understand why universities are not taking more immediate steps to protect their networks. “This is a matter of urgency,” he said….”

Academic Publishers Get Their Wish: DOJ Investigating Sci-Hub Founder For Alleged Ties To Russian Intelligence | Techdirt

“We’ve written plenty about Sci-Hub over the years. The service, which was set up to allow free and easy access to academic research that is all-to-often hidden behind insanely expensive paywalls (often, despite being paid for with public funds), is the bane of academic publishers, though the hero to many academics. As we’ve highlighted, the big publishers keep playing whac-a-mole with the service as they try to take it down around the globe, and each time it just seems to get the site more attention. From the earliest days, it’s been clear that Sci-Hub works by getting academics with access to various collections to “donate” their login credentials, so that Sci-Hub can fetch any missing papers not in its collection (if it, and its associated site Libgen, already have it, they make that version available)….”

DOJ Investigating Sci-Hub Founder on Suspicion of Aiding Russian Intelligence: Report

“The Justice Department is investigating a woman who runs a piracy website on suspicion that she is helping Russian intelligence gain access to inside information about the U.S. military from defense contractors, people familiar with the investigation told The Washington Post. Alexandra Elbakyan?, the creator of Sci-Hub, a website that provides free access to academic papers that are available only through subscriptions, told the Post she was not surprised she was being investigated by U.S. authorities….”

Sci-Hub Finally Gets Investigated

“Sci-Hub is finally being investigated by the US Department of Justice. More specifically, Alexandra Elbakyan is herself being investigated on the suspicion she is working with Russian intelligence, using Sci-Hub as a front to penetrate academic institutions and corporations with the plausible deniability granted by piracy in the name of openness….”

Justice Department investigates Sci-Hub founder on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence – The Washington Post

“The Justice Department is investigating a woman who runs a major Internet piracy operation on suspicion that she may also be working with Russian intelligence to steal U.S. military secrets from defense contractors, according to people familiar with the matter.

Alexandra Elbakyan?, a computer programmer born in Kazakhstan, is the creator of Sci-Hub, a website that provides free access to academic papers that are usually available only through expensive subscriptions. Elbakyan’s supporters have favorably described her as a “Robin Hood of science.”

It’s unclear whether Elbakyan is using Sci-Hub’s operations in service of Russian intelligence, but her critics say she has demonstrated significant hacking skills by collecting log-in credentials from journal subscribers, particularly at universities, and using them to pilfer vast amounts of academic literature….”

Russian Academy of Sciences archive reopens after debts forced it to close in March — Meduza

On June 19, the reading rooms of the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ARAN) reopened after months of inactivity. The archive’s director, Alexander Rabotkevich, told Meduza about the reopening.

“I am pleased to inform you that, beginning today, the reading rooms of the RAN archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg are open once again,” he said. “Our employees’ salaries have been paid in full, and all debts […] whose payment was necessary for the organization’s accounts to operate have been paid.” According to Rabotkevich, the debts that brought the archive’s operations to a stop amounted to 4.3 million rubles ($68,000). A subsidy from Russia’s Education Ministry helped the archive pay up….”

The Dark side of Sci-Hub | Medico musings…

“The problem is that , as cyber security experts say, they have never met a cyber criminal who gets into a database, takes only what is necessary and gets out. Chances are he looks around. Pilfers something else that might be of value. Or worse still leaves behind something nasty.( as of this writing, there is no evidence that Scihub or its partners have actually compromised the security of the universities with any malware).

Moreover when a password is hacked, the hacker has access to the bare minimum information in the database – for example a library database. The details such as username, age, gender, timing of visiting the library, date of joining, last visit taken, last book etc can be easily gotten. From then it is only a matter of social engineering to gain access to other portals – email, social media etc. It is also a matter of concern that some people have the same password for all their sites ! …

[P]ublishers [might] tighten access – perhaps a DRM (digital rights management) or two factor authentication might be introduced – so even if the passwords are stolen by phishing attacks/attacks on university, it will become harder to access the articles….

To make things worse, nothing in Russia can be done without the tacit approval of the government. It is  a well known fact that , as a price for such approval, the government/non governmental actors might want to be a ‘part’ of the project, presumably not to download science articles. She being a marked woman, with no other refuge, would have to yield to their pressure or face the music. People have disappeared for daring to disobey the non-governmental actors in Russia.

This is where the possibility of compromised passwords providing access to the university systems causes worry. However all of this remains conjecture – or the feverish imagination of jobless bloggers at the moment. (But who doesn’t love the bragging rights to ‘I told you so’ when a disaster strikes in the future).

There is also evidence that China has been downloading a lot more than the usual academic download – although for what purpose isn’t known. Also Iran is the third largest access site – that too, a small city in Iran, raising eyebrows about what is going on….”

Sci-Hub blocked in Russia following ruling by Moscow court | News | Chemistry World

Sci-Hub, the popular pirate site that bypasses paywalls to illicitly host millions of pay-to-read scientific papers, is being blocked in Russia after a court in the country ruled against the site.

Last month, the Moscow City Court ruled that Sci-Hub should be blocked in the country following complaints from the academic publishers Elsevier and Springer Nature, who alleged intellectual property infringement. As a result, Russia’s state media regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) has blocked Sci-Hub and related mirror sites. It is believed that Alexandra Elbakyan, who founded Sci-Hub in 2011, operates the site out of Russia. Elbakyan did not respond to a request for comment….”