SKA Organisation suffers document server breach

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Pulls website offline to address issue.

A server managing documents for the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project has been breached, a week after organisers received confidential expert advice on where the telescope should be hosted.

The SKA Board is expected to choose to host the radiotelescope array in either Southern Africa or Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks, after years of planning and negotiations.

The Board received a recommendation from its SKA Site Advisory Committee last Wednesday but according to interim director general Michiel van Haarlem, no details of the Committee's advice would be disclosed until a final decision was reached.

This morning, the SKA Organisation took its website offline, advising that "unauthorised access to the SKA document management server has occurred".

It advised registered website users to consider changing any login details that they also used for other sites, although it did not expect any registration details to have been breached.

Colin Greenwood, company secretary of the SKA Organisation, declined to comment on how the server was breached. The unauthorised person had not yet been identified, he said.

According to Greenwood, only "links to publicly available documents, such as the SKA research papers, were affected".

The organisation did not know the motivation of the attacker, he said.

Greenwood noted that nothing was stolen from the site, and the breach would "not impact the project in any way". No police or other external parties were involved in investigating the breach.

"There have been no previous incidents of unauthorised access to our IT systems," Greenwood told iTnews.

"Thorough diagnostic testing of our system has been carried out and we are in the process of implementing the appropriate changes.

"I expect the SKA website to be back online in the next day or so and apologise for any inconvenience caused by this incident."

Australia’s Federal Government last year committed $40.2 million over four years to its bid to host the SKA, which could attract some $670 million of ICT to the country.

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