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The ALMA Observatory has Suspended Operations due to a Cyberattack

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory in Chile has suspended all astronomical observation operations.


Following a cyberattack on Saturday, October 29, 2022, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory in Chile has suspended all astronomical observation operations and taken its public website offline. 

Email services are currently limited at the observatory, and IT specialists are working to restore the affected systems. The organization announced the security incident on Twitter yesterday, saying that given the nature of the incident, it is impossible to predict when normal operations will resume.

The observatory also stated that the attack did not compromise the ALMA antennas or any scientific data, indicating that no unauthorized data access or exfiltration occurred. In an attempt to learn more about the security incident, BleepingComputer contacted ALMA Observatory, and a spokesperson shared the following comment:

"We cannot further discuss the details as there is an ongoing investigation. Our IT team was prepared to face the situation and had the proper infrastructure, although there is no flawless defense against hackers. We are still working hard on the full recovery of services. Thanks for your understanding." - ALMA Observatory.

The ALMA observatory is made up of 66 high-precision radio telescopes of 12 m diameter arranged in two arrays and is located on the Chajnantor plateau at an elevation of 5,000 m (16,400 ft). The project cost $1.4 billion, making it the most expensive ground telescope in the world, and it was created through a collaborative effort involving the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Chile.

Since its normal operational status in 2013, ALMA has contributed to a pioneering comet and planetary formation studies, participated in the Event Horizon project to photograph a black hole for the first time in history, and detected the biomarker 'phosphine' in Venus' atmosphere.

The observatory is used by scientists from the National Science Foundation, the European Southern Observatory, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, and other organizations from around the world, so any interruption in operations has ramifications for multiple science teams and ongoing projects.

For the time being, users should keep an eye out for status updates on the NRAO's website or the ALMA Observatory's social media channels. Observers can seek assistance from the organization by using this online portal.
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