Back in September, a hacking group named DoppelPaymer launched a cyberattack on Newcastle University, disrupted its IT systems, and stole several files, including user data. The criminals published some of the documents online and threatened to release more sensitive student information unless the university met their demands. It was, as senior researcher at ransomware specialists Emsisoft Brett Callow put it, “the digital equivalent of a kidnapper sending a pinky finger.”
Now, the group has carried out its threat and leaked a wide range of documents onto the darknet, including a full list of students, their specific departments, courses, and numbers. This data was posted on October 12 and featured files from NUMed, Newcastle University’s Malaysia campus. However, students and staff members in Malaysia suffered more privacy invasion as their home addresses, phone numbers, and personal email addresses were leaked.
The NU student who discovered the exposed data on the dark web said that he informed the university via anonymous email and “didn’t receive any acknowledgement or response.” And even though he sent the email over a week ago, the university did not inform any of its students that their data was leaked. “The investigation is ongoing and we cannot share further details until this has been concluded,” a Newcastle University spokesperson said.
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DoppelPaymer hackers have previously released documents belonging to high-profile companies and organizations. That includes Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX, as well as NASA contractor Digital Management Inc. They use malware similar to that of Evil Corp, a cybercrime group sanctioned by the US for its ties with Russian intelligence services. As a result, should Newcastle University cave to the criminals’ demands and pay the ransom, it would violate these sanctions.
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