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Universities cyber attack each other to test defences
Named Exercise Mercury, the competition is aimed at benchmarking a security posture in the higher education sector and providing information that can be shared for the benefit of the whole sector. It was developed at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia and Cambridge University and is being supported by Jisc, the not-for-profit provider of technology solutions for higher education and research in the UK. Universities are paired off and each spends a week ‘attacking’ the other using an internal team of staff and students to uncover vulnerabilities in processes, policies, procedures, technology infrastructure and the digital footprint. Teams typically spend two days checking out what is most important to the opposition (sensitive research, for example) and the remainder of the week working out how to cause the most damage. Using open source intelligence and social engineering techniques, the hackers perform a controlled simulation of an attack with clear legal boundaries.
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