Hackers hit the University of Cambridge, leaking email addresses and passwords of 1,500 students and staff. The website of the university's Cambridge School Classics Project was successfully breached by cybercriminals, who then proceeded to list personal information online.
Confirming the hack, a University of Cambridge spokesperson told the Daily Dot, "We are aware of the breach. Email addresses and passwords of people registered on the Cambridge Schools Classics Projects website have been accessed without authorisation. We are in the process of notifying affected users."
The leaked passwords were available online in cleartext rather than in an encrypted format, which likely would have provided added security protections to users. It is still unclear as to how hackers gained access to the university's systems and how the breach may affect ongoing research projects.
Given the proclivity among people to reuse passwords, victims of the breach may now also be vulnerable to further online targeted attacks. The danger of password reuse was recently brought to light by the recent slew of high-profile data breaches sustained by tech giants like LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr.
This is not the first time for an academic institute to be targeted by cybercriminals. The Calgary University was recently hit by a massive ransomware attack, which compelled the university officials to pay up a ransom of $20,000 after its IT branch was left grappling with the breach. The university's vice president defended the decision to pay the ransom by pointing out that critical information pertaining to ongoing important research may be affected and cannot be left exposed to criminal elements.
With the recent alarming rise in cyberattacks, cybersecurity experts have cautioned people to exercise caution when setting up new online accounts and use strong passwords to protect themselves from prospective threats.