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Student data stolen from Australia's top school

June 4, 2019

A "sophisticated operator" has broken the cyber defenses of the Australian National University (ANU) and stolen years' worth of sensitive student data. Many of ANU's ex-students now work for the Australian government.

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Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Gollnow

Attackers breached the computer systems of the Australian National University (ANU) to gain access to student data going back 19 years, ANU officials said on Tuesday. The data includes bank accounts, phone numbers, addresses, passport and tax file numbers, and academic records.

The attack was committed by "a sophisticated operator," according to ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt. He said the breach happened in late 2018 but was only discovered two weeks ago.

"We're working closely with Australian government security agencies and industry security partners to investigate further," Schmidt added.

The Canberra-based ANU is Australia's top-ranked university, with its alumni including former prime ministers, cabinet officials and civil servants. The news of the latest attack comes after the university reported another attack last year, which reportedly failed to gather sensitive data. At the time, Australian media speculated Beijing was behind the intrusion.

Read more: China reportedly hacked sensitive US Navy data

'Too early to speculate'

Earlier this year, the Australian parliament also reported its network was compromised and that some political parties have also been targeted. The assembly said a "sophisticated state actor" was behind the hacking, with some experts once again indicating China was responsible.

The Australian Signals Directorate, which is charge of cyber warfare, also said the latest hacking of ANU appeared to be the work of a "sophisticated actor" in a statement emailed to Reuters.

However, they also said it was "too early to speculate about connections to other compromises."

China has consistently denied hacking Australian institutions.

dj/rc (Reuters, AFP)

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