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Education Data Breaches

As students are soon back to schools and universities, InfoWatch Analytical Center has prepared a digest of recent education data leaks.

Summer has traditionally been a busy season for educational institutions because of graduation, qualifying and entrance exams. Tests and test answers become extremely easy to sell to dishonest students. Thus, as part of a notorious incident in the UK, an Edexcel C4 A-level math paper was allegedly leaked on the Internet the night before thousands of students sat the exam. Students reported seeing the paper for sale at £200, with sellers said to be offering the first question for free to prove they had it.

The Ministry of Education in the eastern part of Libya decided to cancel this year’s English exams of Junior Certificate, following the leak of the question paper on the Internet. The officials said that the exam paper was leaked by teachers from Tobruk city, explaining that the suspects were arrested and referred to investigation.

In addition, criminals go for databases of student personal details. One of the largest such leaks was recorded in Malaysia in June when the Education Ministry’s online school examination analysis system was taken down. The system contained centralized examination results from all states. As a result, 4.9 million students’ details, along with their parents’ MyKad numbers, were compromised.

In India, data of students who took NEET, an entrance exam for medical colleges across the country, this year was available for buyers through a website. Those who would pay Rs 100,000 (approximately $1,400) were able to access the complete database containing records of 250,000 students, including their genders, roll numbers, ranks in the exam, as well as their mobile numbers. A company that collected these data claimed that students were more than happy to provide their ranks, as well as their contact details, in order to get free help from career experts about their future.

In the digital era, many sectors, including education, regularly suffer from accidental data leaks due to human errors. For example, in July, an employee of the College of Computing (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA) inadvertently attached a spreadsheet containing confidential data of nearly 8,000 students and blasted it out to students in a mass email. Some of the data shared included ID numbers, home addresses, visa information, and grade points average.