The information of many British Council students was recently exposed online in an unprotected repository.
A world leading education institution, British Council operates in over 100 countries worldwide. In 2019 and 2020, it connected directly with roughly 80 million people, and with over 790 million overall.
In early December 2021, MacKeeper and cybersecurity researcher Bob Diachenko discovered an open, unsecured Microsoft Azure blob repository with over 144,000 files (xml, json and xls/xlsx) containing personal information and login details belonging to British Council students.
The blob container was indexed by a public search engine but it’s unclear for how long the data remained accessible to the public without authentication, MacKeeper explains.
The security firm contacted the British Council immediately after confirming the sensitivity of the information and the owner of the repository. The blob container was secured on December 23, roughly two weeks after the initial contact.
Student information potentially exposed to the public includes full names, email addresses, student IDs, student status, enrollment dates, duration of study, and notes.
While Diachenko estimates that hundreds of thousands of students were impacted by the data breach, the British Council told SecurityWeek that the number is actually much lower.
“The data in question was held and processed by a third party service provider. Approximately 10,000 records were accessible in a way that should not have occurred. On becoming aware of this, our third party service provider immediately secured the records with appropriate controls and the data in question was rendered no longer accessible. We are working with the supplier to ensure similar incidents do not happen in the future,” British Council told SecurityWeek.
The impacted individuals are advised to log into their accounts and change their passwords immediately, and also to pay close attention to any possible phishing attacks seeking to harvest additional personal information.
“With this information exposed, hackers could also use this data to target the British Council and exploit vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure for their own malicious ends. For example, hackers could open bank accounts, take out loans or make expensive financial purchases in your name. They could use this information to access your online accounts such as with different stores or financial service providers,” MacKeeper notes.