The Vatican has announced that it is currently fighting cyber attacks with both information security strategies and technologies to protect a number of invaluable items in its archives from hackers.
The Vatican Apostolic Library is home to more than 80,000 documents, paintings and artifacts in its archives including works from Michelangelo and documents from Galileo. The Vatican says that since it moved to digitise its archives and host them online, they are hit by around 100 cyber attacks each month.
The library is also home to the oldest known bible in existence.
The Vatican’s Chief Information Officer, Manilo Miceli has told The Observer that they are deploying artificial intelligence, as well as a host of information security systems to ensure that its online system is not compromised.
“We cannot ignore that our digital infrastructure is of interest to hackers,” Miceli said. “A successful attack could see the collection stolen, manipulated or deleted altogether,” he said, adding that “hackers will always try to get into organisations to steal information, to make money or to wreak havoc.”
The library’s archives were first created in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V, and represent arguably the most significant trove of books, works of art, documents, manuscripts, coins and historically significant artifacts in the world. Mr Miceli says that the intention of digitising the collection was to “preserve the content of historical treasures without causing damage to the fragile originals.”
“We have to protect our online collection so that readers can trust the records are accurate, unaltered history,” Miceli added. “While physical damage is often clear and immediate, an attack of this kind wouldn’t have the same physical visibility, and so has the potential to cause enduring and potentially irreparable harm, not only to the archive but to the world’s historical memory.”
“In the era of fake news, these collections play an important role in the fight against misinformation and so defending them against ‘trust attacks’ is critical,” he says.
The Vatican has teamed up with cybersecurity firm Darktrace to fight cyber attacks and protect its archives from outside threat actors looking for a potential pay-day with ransomware, or to wreak havoc on the historically significant institution’s reputation.
Dave Palmer, Director of Technology at Darktrace has said that cyber criminals are always on the hunt for methods to “make a quick buck or to cause embarrassment on the global stage,” adding that “many organisations like the Vatican library have accepted this reality. With AI, they are discovering the subtle, unusual activity that precedes a full-blown attack, and, crucially, trusting AI to fight back on humans’ behalf before it’s too late.”
Chief Information Officer for the Vatican, Manilo Miceli addressed Palmer’s concerns, stating that “less Hollywood, but still concerning, is a ransomware attack on the library – a well-known attack that infiltrates companies unseen and then locks down files incredibly quickly until you pay a hefty sum. Ransomware today moves at machine-speed, outstripping humans’ ability to spot and stop the attack before it escalates.”
“These attacks have the potential to impact the Vatican library’s reputation – one it has maintained for hundreds of years – and have significant financial ramifications that could impact our ability to digitise the remaining manuscripts.”