Data Breach News

CUHK Data Breach: Hackers Target University In Hong Kong

CUHK data breach exposes info of 20,870 students, staff. Hackers sold data on dark web, university claims no leak on public platforms. Investigation underway.

by Krishna Murthy June 14th, 2024

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The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has been confronted by a massive data breach that has compromised personal information of precisely 20,870 students, staff and past graduates.

The CUHK data breach was initially identified on June 3, 2024, prompting swift action by the institution. An investigation is currently underway to trace the culprits and to take corrective measures.

Understanding the CUHK Data Breach

The CUHK is one of the premier institutes in China which was established in 1963 and is the first research university in Hong Kong. The cyberattack on CUHK reportedly took place on June 1 at its School of Continuing and Professional Studies (CUSCS).

In a statement put out by the school on June 13, CUSCS said that it had undertaken an investigation into the breach on June 3. An information technology security consultant was appointed by the college to assess the breach. The investigation revealed that the school’s “Moodle learning management system” was hacked.

Moodle is an open-source learning management system designed. It allows educators, administrators and learners to create personalized learning environments for online projects in schools, colleges and workplaces. Moodle can be used to create custom websites with online courses and allows for community-sourced plugins.

Source: CUSCS Website

According to the CUSCS, the leaked data included the names, email addresses, and student numbers of 20,870 Moodle accounts of tutors, students, graduates, and visitors. This personal data was reportedly stolen after a server at one of the institution’s schools was hacked.

Despite the university management stating that the sensitive data was not leaked on any public platforms, the breached information was found to be readily available on the dark web domain BreachForums.

A Threat Actor (TA), who goes by the alias “Valerie”, put up a post on dark web stating that the hacker was willing to sell the data. The TA noted that, “75 per cent of the stolen data was sold to a private party, which financed the breach.  The rest of the data was not shared. So upon multiple offers, we decided to make a public sell.”

To claim that the data was credible, the TA provided samples, which included the username, first name, last name, institution, department, mobile number and city of the victims of the data breach.

Investigation Status of CUHK Data Breach

The CUSCS stated that as soon as its investigation revealed a massive data breach, it had deactivated the relevant account and reset the password. It added that, apart from the relevant server, the online learning platform has been moved, and security measures have been strengthened to block any account after three unsuccessful login attempts.

CUHK has also been notified of the incident. The college has also established a crisis management team composed of the dean, deputy dean, information technology services director, administrative director and communications and public relations director to assess the risks,” CUSCS said.

The college also had filed a complaint over the data breach to the local police. The university, too, has notified the city’s privacy watchdog-Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD), in accordance with established procedures. The PCPD acknowledged receipt of the complaint on June 13.

CUHK Data Breach: Institutions in Hong Kong Under Scanner

In what is becoming a trend, CUHK has become the third educational institute in Hong Kong this year to fall victim to cyberattacks.

In May, the Hong Kong Institute of Contemporary Culture, Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, fell victim to a ransomware attack where the data of over 600 people was leaked.

Similarly, in April, a private medical facility, Union Hospital, suffered a ransomware attack affecting its servers, which allegedly resulted in operational paralysis.

The Hong Kong College of Technology too suffered a ransomware attack in February, which led to the data of around 8,100 students being breached.


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