Lancaster University Admits Phishing Attack Involving Data of 12,500 Applicants

Lancaster University has been a target of hackers, causing the leak of around 12,500 aspiring students’ confidential data.

In a statement, the university admitted that hackers gained access to applicant records for the years 2019 and 2020. The “sophisticated and malicious phishing attack” also accessed the personal data of some enrolled students. The breach enabled attackers to steal confidential information such as their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

In line with this, the university also warned applicants of fraudulent invoices sent by hackers to some undergraduate applicants.

Lancaster University Admits Phishing Attack Involving Data of 12,500 Applicants


The university also admitted that a breach has also taken place in its student records system. Attackers were able to access information of a minimal number of students. The administration said it is already contacting affected students to instruct them what to do.

The breach came to the knowledge of Lancaster on July 19. The university immediately formed an incident response team for investigation. The team was also tasked to file an immediate report the cyberattack to Information Commissioner’s Office.

Lancaster also informed the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) of the attack. An NCSC spokesperson said that they are supporting law enforcement agencies with their investigation.

According to Universities and Colleges Admissions Service data, 12,545 people applied to Lancaster in 2018. Based on this number, the recent cyberattack may have affected around 12,500 applicants.

Favourite Targets of Attackers

UK universities and colleges are no strangers to data breaches. In 2017, the country’s fraud and cybercrime centre Action Fraud and the London city police warned students of cyberattacks. They have been raising awareness about the scam to both new and returning students.


Attackers have been sending emails claiming to be from the Student Loans Company, the agency that issues student loans. The email claims that the majority of student loan accounts have been suspended because of inaccurate data. Students are then urged to click on the given link to update their information.

The link directs students to a bogus version of the Student Loans Company website for stealing credentials. Students who are not familiar with the breach might supply their sensitive information. These credentials may include email addresses, passwords, secret answers, and bank account details.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Education released a security alert citing hacking incidents in schools. The warning noted that attackers had targeted the systems of 62 US colleges and universities. They aimed to fulfil their plan by exploiting a vulnerability in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) web app.

The attacks on the 62 colleges failed, the Department of Education said. Even so, it continued to send out the alert to warn other potential victims.