The Vatican has enlisted the help of artificial intelligence to guard its treasure trove of digitalised ancient artefacts. The Apostolic Library, which contains some 80,000 precious documents — including the world's oldest surviving copy of the Bible — faces roughly 100 hacking threats every single month.
Manlio Miceli, the library's chief information officer, says it is a danger that they can no longer ignore.
"We cannot ignore that our digital infrastructure is of interest to hackers," he told the Observer. "A successful attack could see the collection stolen, manipulated or deleted altogether."
Hackers, he said, "will always try to get into organisations to steal information, to make money or to wreak havoc".
Miceli said the library had partnered with Darktrace, a company founded by a Cambridge mathematician which utilises a complex AI system to provide cybersecurity.
The library was founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V and contains a number of ancient and priceless pieces, including manuscripts, books, images, coins and medals. The accompanying digital project intends to "preserve the content of historical treasures without causing damage to the fragile originals," according to Miceli.
"This project is about a lot more than just physical preservation," he said. "Swaths of history, previously explored only by white-gloved historians, are now made available to anyone with a internet connection. This is a huge step for educational equality.”
Despite the enormity of the digital library's collections, they only amount to about 25% of the material stored in the physical Apostolic Library.