ICO to investigate University of York breach

Data breach

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will be making enquiries into a data breach at the University of York, it was revealed today.

Over 17,000 students had their personal data leaked on a section of the university's website, a number of reports indicated, but a statement from the institution indicated just 148 individual records had been accessed.

IT PRO asked the university why there was such a significant discrepancy between the two figures, but it declined to comment.

Information published included student addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and A-level results.

The university could face punishment from the ICO, which confirmed to IT PRO it is looking into the situation.

"We will be making enquiries into the circumstances of this alleged breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken," an ICO spokesperson said.

The ICO has the power to fine any organisation up to 500,000 if they are found to have breached the act.

The university said it took immediate action to rectify the problem and said it will contact the relevant people involved.

"We will contact these individuals over the next 24 hours to inform them and to discuss this matter," said Dr David Duncan, registrar at the University of York.

"We are also investigating all procedures and management systems and will undertake a thorough review of our data security arrangements."

Aziz Maakaroun, business development director at vulnerability management specialist Outpost24, said the breach was embarrassing for the university.

"By reporting this breach to the Information Commissioner's Office, and by launching a full and immediate investigation into how it occurred in the first place, the university is clearly taking the right steps to remedy the situation," Maakaroun said.

"However, you can't help but think that this is like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted."

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.