The academic publisher SciFinder is being adversely affected by piracy, as their online products become illegally available for sale online. Other scientific publishers are also experiencing the effects of piracy, as clever hackers break into university accounts and sell illegal access to scholarly databases.
SciFinder is run by a division of the American Chemical Society, and offer an extensive database of articles and other information about chemical compounds. Account information and user passwords are being hacked from universities and colleges, with content being sold on reseller sites and online marketplaces around the world.
“There are reseller Web sites in China where we’ve purchased access to our own products for pennies on the dollar,” says Michael Dennis, vice president for legal administration and applied research at the Chemical Abstracts Service, the division that publishes SciFinder. “We’re shutting down hundreds of these every couple of months.”
Dedicated reseller websites have also been set up to sell content and account information, such as the recently shut down journalpasswords.com. The scientific data in some of these journals can be expensive and incredibly useful to industry around the world. SciFinder first learned of illegal access to its site a few years ago, although the situation has gotten a lot worse of late.
They are continuing to look into unusual traffic patterns as a way to track down offenders, although some students have also been known to sell their account information which is very hard to track. College technology officials also say they are seeing an increase in phishing attacks, where hackers attempt to trick users into sharing their logins and passwords.
In reference to the college and university database system, Mr. McCoyd of the publishing association says “It’s quite unfortunate that a small number of people would engage in this behaviour and hamper that otherwise frictionless system.”