Data Breach

Stanford University Data Breach – Ph.D. Admission Data Leaked

Stanford University has recently reported a security incident involving a data breach. The incident, which occurred between December 2022 and January 2023, involved the unauthorized download of files containing sensitive admission information for the Economics Ph.D. program from the university’s website.

Recently, 897 candidates were notified by the university about this recent data breach. As part of the graduate application to the Department of Economics in the university, these candidates submitted their personal and health data that were unauthorizedly accessed and downloaded in this breach.

Ph.D. Admission Data Leaked

Stanford University received notification on January 24, 2023, regarding a significant data security lapse that had occurred in the Department of Economics Ph.D. program. 

This incident occurred due to the misconfiguration of the folder settings, which led to the availability of the 2022-23 application files for admission to the program on the department’s website. 

As a result, unauthorized access to the confidential and sensitive information of the applicants was made possible, posing a potential risk to their privacy and academic future.

In response to this report, immediate restrictions were placed on access to the folder as soon as it was made known. Following the notification of the data security lapse, Stanford University initiated an immediate investigation to determine the extent and timeline of the incident.

Based on the investigation, it was determined that the application files were opened up to unrestricted access starting on December 5, 2022. During the time period of December 5, 2022, and January 24, 2023, two downloads of the confidential application materials were made.

However, outside of this, the cybersecurity experts at the university didn’t find any evidence that the information was exploited in any way. 

Data Involved

This incident involved the disclosure of applicants’ applications as well as the materials that accompanied them. The application contains the following personal data:-

  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Home address
  • Mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Mail address
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Citizenship
  • Gender
  • Transcripts
  • Personal statements
  • Resume
  • Letters of recommendation

Furthermore, there is no financial or social security data exposed in this data breach since this type of information was not contained in application files.

Prompt Response from Stanford University

Ensuring the confidentiality, privacy, and security of personal information is a top priority for Stanford University. 

To this end, the university has implemented robust security protocols and measures that are designed to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access, theft, and misuse. 

Following the unfortunate data breach incident, Stanford University has taken swift action to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future. The university is in the process of reviewing and updating its policies and procedures related to the storage and handling of electronic files. 

This review is aimed at strengthening the security of the data storage infrastructure and preventing any misconfiguration or errors that could lead to unauthorized access or data breaches. 

Furthermore, the university will be conducting mandatory retraining sessions for its faculty and staff to ensure that everyone is well-versed in the updated security policies and procedures. 

While they are also offering IDX, a company that specializes in breach recovery and data breach protection, as additional services for identity theft protection.

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