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University of York data breach was kept quiet for two months

Software provider Blackbaud said it paid a ransom on the assurance the criminals will delete the stolen data

The University of York has been hit by a data breach and has questioned why it took so long for its cloud service provider to notify it about the intrusion. 

Software firm Blackbaud was hit by a ransomware attack in May of this year but didn't notify the university that a subset of its data was involved until 16 July. 

The cyber criminals were able to remove data from a number of Blackbaud's clients. The software firm said it has paid the ransom demand, with confirmation that the copy of data they removed had been destroyed. It said it agreed to pay because its customers' data was its "top priority". 

"Based on the nature of the incident, our research, and third party (including law enforcement) investigation, we have no reason to believe that any data went beyond the cyber criminal, was or will be misused; or will be disseminated or otherwise made available publicly," Blackbaud said in a statement. 

The university told IT Pro that it was not involved in the decision to pay the ransom and it decline to comment on whether or not it would have. It also said it was working with Blackbaud to understand why there was an almost two-month delay in notifying it of the breach. The university used Blackbaud's service to record engagement with members of its community, including alumni, staff and students, and extended networks and supporters. 

"We will continue to work with Blackbaud to investigate this matter, and we continue to take advice from our Data Protection Officer and IT security team," the University of York said in a statement. 

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"We very much regret the inconvenience that this data breach by Blackbaud may have caused. Please be assured that we take data protection very seriously and we are grateful for our community's continued support and engagement.

"We have been informed that in order to protect customers data and mitigate potential identity theft, Blackbaud met the cyber criminal's ransomware demand. Blackbaud has advised us that it paid the ransom and received assurances from the cybercriminal that the data had been destroyed."

The university also said it had informed the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) about the incident and is taking steps to understand how many other parties in the higher education and not-for-profit sector may have been affected. 

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