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Lancaster University hit by double data breach

The sophisticated phishing attack has affected prospective undergraduates and a number of current students

Personal information belonging to students has been stolen as part of a "sophisticated and malicious" cyber attack on Lancaster University, with the institution revealing it has sustained two breaches of data.

Attackers gained access to data records for undergraduate applications for 2019 and 2020 entry, including information like names, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses, Lancaster University has revealed.

Some undergraduate applicants were sent fraudulent invoices as a result of this breach after their details were acquired, with those affected informed by the university to remain vigilant.

As part of the wider attack on the university's systems, the cyber criminals also breached the university's student records system and compromised the record and ID documents of "a very small number of students".

Lancaster University detected the phishing attack on Friday and established an incident team to handle the fallout.

The organisation also reported the incident to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which confirmed it is assessing the information the university has provided.

"Since Friday we have focused on safeguarding our IT systems and identifying and advising students and applicants who have been affected," the university added in a statement. "This work of our incident team is ongoing as is the investigation by law enforcement agencies."

Ed Macnair, CEO of cyber security firm Censornet, said the news shows just how targeted cybercriminals are becoming in their methods, and how any and all sectors are now at constant risk.

"This kind of data allows criminals to carry out attacks like credential stuffing, where hackers attempt to log in to a number of an individual's accounts with the intent to access card details that have been linked to certain accounts," he said.

"Affected students should immediately change their passwords and ensure that they have unique passwords for each account they own. This attack highlights how absolutely any organisation is now vulnerable to being hacked, so more vigilance, education, and sophisticated protection is required."

IT Pro approached the university for further comment but a spokesperson declined to comment citing active police investigations.

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