Access to UK’s ARCHER Supercomputer Was Suspended Following Cyberattack

Access to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the United Kingdom was suspended this week following a cyberattack.

Hosted by the University of Edinburgh and packing 118,080 processing cores running on a Cray XC30, the ARCHER (Advanced Research Computing High End Resource) supercomputer is the primary academic research supercomputer in the UK. The ARCHER Service was started in November 2013.

On May 11, 2020, the team behind ARCHER disabled access to the service due to a “security exploitation” on its login nodes. The team announced that jobs already running or queued would continue to run, although login has been disabled and no other jobs could be added.

The team also made the decision to revoke existing passwords and rewrite SSH keys. When attempting to log back in after access to ARCHER is restored, operators will need to use new passwords and SSH keys.

“We would advise you to also change passwords and SSH keys on any other systems which you share your ARCHER credentials with,” the team said on Wednesday.

The security incident, the team says, appears to be part of “a major issue across the academic community as several computers have been compromised in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.”

The EPCC Systems team has been working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and Cray/HPE to investigate the incident and address the issue, but the ARCHER Service will remain unavailable over the weekend as well.

“We are hoping to return ARCHER back to service early next week but this will depend on the results of the diagnostic scans taking place and further discussions with NCSC,” the team said today.

No further details on the attack have been provided, nor on the actors suspected to be behind it.

Last week, the United States and the UK issued a joint alert to warn of advanced persistent threat (APT) groups “actively targeting organizations involved in both national and international COVID-19 responses,” including pharmaceutical companies, medical research organizations, and universities.