Fighting Piracy of Scholarly Research

As the Internet has become widely available to individuals all across the country and hacking has unfortunately become an all too familiar practice, it’s no surprise that even databases of scholarly information are now being targeted.  That is the case with SciFinder, which is now available for cheap, illegal access, according to an article posted in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The site, which is run by the American Chemical Society, is composed of scholarly articles and information regarding chemical compounds. The hackers are pirates which have stolen the information and/or leaked the SciFinder account information for cheap to college students and professors in need of that sort of information.

The hackers in question resell the information taken from the database to websites in China, and while the officials have tried to shut down hundreds of those, representatives for applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Services say that they often have trouble shutting down sites and taking action against sites in other countries. Michael Dennis, who is the vice president for legal administration and applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Services claims that the sellers use sites such as Taobao, which is the equivalent to eBay and other online marketplaces, to sell access to SciFinder, which gives buyers the hacked usernames and passwords to log into the site with the impressions that they are in fact legitimate and on-campus.

While there is a large emphasis on the importance of antipiracy efforts on higher education learning and informational campaigns and awareness have been brought to school officials encouraging the importance of securing these accounts, this isn’t the first experience with piracy related to online databases. But according to campus security officials, these hackers aren’t always necessarily after the latest journal entries in the field of science, as in many cases they are doing so to use the information to send spam emails from college accounts. While some may think it is up to the schools to be more vigilant about security issues, many argue that the problem lies with individuals who share their passwords with others, which violates school policy. But it is difficult to actually know how often that happens or if that is the reason for the leaked information.

Security experts stress how difficult it would be to figure out the patterns of hacking and to what extent they gain authorization through the database. But many colleges are taking the initiative to better inform their students about hacking and phishing attacks, which trick users into sharing their logins and passwords with hackers. Schools are also trying to do what they can to work together to respond to hackers as there are more than 300 participants nationwide that are set up in a private email list for campus security officials.

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