NEWS that the University of Reading was hacked and its data held for ransom has led to a statement being issued to the public by officials this week.

It was announced publicly on Thursday, July 23 that the contractor managing the university's databases had been cyber-attacked in May.

The attackers criminally took personal information from the database and demanded a ransom from Blackbaud, the database host - according to the company, they paid the ransom and it is confident that the stolen data has since been destroyed.

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The University was informed of the attack by Blackbaud on Thursday, July 16, and was told that the company had 'deployed additional measures to mitigate adverse effects of the breach' to ensure the ongoing security of the data that wasn't affected.

The public announcement, posted to the University's website, stated that personal information of alumni and supporters may have been accessed, including dates of birth, contact information such as phone numbers, demographic information, a history of relationships with the University such as when people studied here, donation dates and amounts, and events organised by the University or Henley Business School that people may have registered for or attended. 

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It was also stated however that no sensitive financial information, such as passwords, bank account or credit card details had been accessed or affected by this incident.

Dr Richard Messer, Chief Strategy Officer and University Secretary, University of Reading, said in his statement: "The University has been informed that an online database, containing details of alumni and supporters of the University of Reading and Henley Business School and operated by an outside contractor, was criminally hacked in May, leading to unauthorised access to personal data.

"I have today written to apologise and directly inform those in our community who we consider may be at risk, so that they can take any steps necessary to protect themselves.

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"Our alumni and supporters of the University of Reading are important members of our community.

"I sincerely apologise to them for this incident and am sorry for any worry or inconvenience it may cause."

The University of Reading has said it has contacted the Information Commissioner's Office, the UK Data Protection Regulator, about the breach, and is working with Blackbaud on how to ensure this doesn't happen again.

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