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University of Sydney data breach impacts recent applicants

September, 2023
Quick definition  ⓘ
Number of data records exposed by cybersecurity breaches in 2021.

Key Points

    The University of Sydney (USYD) recently disclosed a data breach impacting international applicants, caused by a breach at a third-party service provider. Although USYD, an esteemed public university with a long history, reassured that the breach had limited effects and that no local students, staff, or alumni were impacted, it remains unclear whether this was a targeted or opportunistic attack.
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Quick Read

In a recent announcement, the University of Sydney (USYD), one of Australia's esteemed public institutions, disclosed a data breach that has impacted recently applied and enrolled international applicants. The breach, which was attributed to a third-party service provider, has raised concerns, even as the university moved swiftly to address the issue.

USYD, which commenced operations back in 1850 and boasts nearly 70,000 students along with approximately 8,500 academic and administrative personnel, represents a cornerstone of Australia's education landscape. However, like many institutions worldwide, it has faced the challenge of cybersecurity threats, and the latest breach has shed light on the vulnerabilities in its systems.

The university stressed that the incident's impact was contained, and a preliminary investigation yielded no evidence suggesting that local students, staff, or alumni were affected by the breach. Furthermore, it was noted that the breach was confined to a single platform, having no discernible influence on other university systems. USYD provided the following statement regarding the situation: "There is currently no evidence that any personal information has been misused."

However, details about the timing of the breach and the identity of the third-party service provider remained conspicuously absent from the public disclosure, leaving questions unanswered about the breach's origin and extent.

It is yet to be determined whether the breach was a targeted, deliberate attack or an opportunistic endeavor. USYD is taking steps to contact and offer support to those impacted by the breach in an effort to minimize the risk of further exposure. The nature of the data accessed by the attacker also remains under investigation, and the university has urged international applicants to follow the guidance provided on its website for further information and support.

In the face of this incident, USYD advises its students to exercise caution and report any suspicious communications, particularly phishing attempts, to the email address While there have been no reports of disruptions in the university's systems at this time, it underscores the need for ongoing vigilance in the face of evolving cybersecurity threats.

This breach at USYD serves as another reminder of the persistent cybersecurity challenges faced by educational institutions across the globe. Recent incidents in the education sector, such as the University of Michigan's system shutdown due to a severe cyber incident and the data breach suffered by the University of Manchester, highlight the urgency for universities to bolster their cybersecurity measures in an era where digital threats are on the rise. It is essential for educational institutions to remain proactive in safeguarding the personal information of their students and applicants to protect against potential data breaches and related risks.

Further Reading

—Jess Hofmann

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Quick Definition

A Data Breach is a situation in which information security has failed, enabling sensitive data of any kind to be accessed by unauthorized individuals despite whatever protections were in place. Data breaches have become a particular concern in recent years because such stolen data is often subsequently distributed widely, in particular on the dark web, where it is often aggregated and sold for illicit activity, identity theft, or further cyberattacks of various kinds.

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