Blackbaud data incident

Last updated: Wednesday 29 July 2020

On 16 July, we were contacted by a third-party service provider, Blackbaud, one of the world’s largest providers of database management systems for not-for-profit organisations and the Higher Education sector.

They informed us that they had been the victim of a ransomware attack in May 2020. The cybercriminal was able to remove a copy of a subset of data from a number of their clients. We believe it involves a number of UK and US healthcare, educational and not-for-profit organisations, as well as University of London data, so it may have involved your personal information. 

We use this system to record engagement with members of the University community, including alumni, members of friends groups, and supporters. Having undertaken a review of the information shared by Blackbaud mapped against our data, we are sharing details of this breach of Blackbaud’s systems with members of our community today.
 

We would like to reassure you that: 

  • A detailed forensic investigation was undertaken, on behalf of Blackbaud, by law enforcement and third-party cyber security experts;
  • Blackbaud have confirmed that the investigation found that no encrypted information, such as bank account details, was accessible;
  • Blackbaud also confirmed that no credit card information formed part of the data theft. We want to stress that if you have provided the University with credit card numbers or bank details in the course of a donation or purchase, this information was not included, exposed or accessed in the course of the incident.
  • No usernames or passwords for alumni or other constituents were part of the data theft, as no alumni or constituent passwords exist in the University of London’s Blackbaud system.
  • We have been informed that in order to protect customers’ data and mitigate potential identity theft, Blackbaud met the cybercriminal’s ransomware demand. Blackbaud has advised us that it paid the ransom and received assurances from the cybercriminal that the data had been destroyed. Blackbaud paid the ransom before it notified the University of London or any of its other clients about the incident. The University has not paid nor will we pay any part of the ransom fee.
  • Blackbaud has engaged security experts to search for misuse of the data and no evidence has been found of this; they are also monitoring the dark web looking for any traces of the data affected in this incident.
  • We have determined that the file removed may have contained your contact information, educational and demographic information, professional details, fundraising activities, and a history of your relationship with our organisation, such as event attendance, donation dates and amounts. If you administrate a society or affiliated organisation your status as a representative and your contact details may be included. For more information, see our Privacy Policy.
  • However, we would like to reiterate that we believe the risk attached to this incident is low, based on the steps taken by our contracted supplier. You can read their response on the Blackbaud website.

What are we doing?

We are notifying you so that you are aware of this breach of Blackbaud’s systems and can remain vigilant. We have informed the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK regulator for data protection, of the breach and will assist them with their enquiries. We are taking steps to understand how many other parties in the higher education and the wider not-for-profit sector have been affected.

We are also working with Blackbaud to understand why there was a delay between them finding the breach and notifying us, as well as what actions they have taken to increase their security. We understand that as part of their ongoing efforts to help prevent something like this from happening in the future, Blackbaud has already implemented several changes that will help protect your data from any subsequent incidents, including identifying the vulnerability associated with this incident, including the tactics used by the cybercriminal, and taking swift action to fix it.

What you can do?

No action is required from you at this time however, as best practice, we recommend you remain vigilant and promptly report any suspicious activity or suspected identity theft to us and to the proper law enforcement authorities. You can reach the University about this by emailing: blackbaud_incident@london.ac.uk

For more information: 

We sincerely apologise for this incident and regret any inconvenience it may cause you. We will continue to work with Blackbaud to investigate this matter, and we continue to take advice from our Data Protection Officer and IT security team. You can also visit this page to keep up to date with how we are responding to this issue, including our response to any recommendations from Blackbaud, the ICO or regulatory authorities.

Should you have any further questions or concerns regarding this matter and/or the protections available to you, please do not hesitate to contact us at blackbaud_incident@london.ac.uk.