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Anonymous hacks Queen Mary University for its role in MoD-funded research

Sizeable haul of data, including students' personal details, stolen by hacktivist collective

A British university has been the latest target of an attack by the notorious online hacking collective “Anonymous”.

According to the group, a considerable amount of data has been stolen from the servers of Queen Mary University of London on 19 January - including students’ personal details - for undertaking what it describes as “invasive” research funded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Operation PhDPounds (#OpPhdPounds) was launched only hours after the Guardian revealed earlier this month that the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) pays six-figure sums to support individual PhD students’ cyberspace-related research at a number of institutions.          

The group said in a statement that the attack had been made in response to QMUL’s interest in researching “ways technology can be used to exert influence”.

The group suggested that a sizable haul of data, including a map of the college’s IT network, and students’ personal details had been taken – with a small sample of the data leaked at the same time by way of proof.  

The university attracted interest from the so-called “hacktivist” group for its research projects, which range from “cross-cultural attitudes and the shaping of online behaviour in crisis situations” to “the analysis of crowd behaviour through ad-hoc mobile sensors”.

Anonymous added: "Queen Mary's [sic] and the other universities should be much more interested in protecting their own data, and the data of their paying students, than in analyzing the data of others."

The Daily Dot, which first broke the news, claims to have spoken to a member of the hacktivist group. The source said: “[QMUL] is woefully underprepared for the kind of attention working with the Ministry of Defence can cause,” adding “If we are on their systems, anyone else could be as well.”

A spokesperson from QMUL said: “We are investigating the claims. We have informed the police.”