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Breach at Software Company May Have Compromised Harvard Affiliates' Demographic Data

A recent data breach at the company Blackbaud affected Harvard, St. Paul's Parish and the Harvard Catholic Center, WBUR, and Boston University.
A recent data breach at the company Blackbaud affected Harvard, St. Paul's Parish and the Harvard Catholic Center, WBUR, and Boston University. By Mia B. Frothingham
By Camille G. Caldera and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

A data breach at Blackbaud — the maker of a software the University uses for fundraising and donor engagement — may have put Harvard affiliates’ demographic data at risk, according to an email they received from Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development Wednesday.

The breach may have included demographic data — “such as names, addresses, employment information, and birthdates, along with philanthropic engagement data” — of affiliates who live in the United States, per the email. The breach was discovered in May, and the University was first notified in July.

“Harvard University has never provided credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account information, or similar high-risk data to Blackbaud, thus this data was not exposed,” the email read.

The attack involved an attempt to lock the company out of its servers for ransom, which Blackbaud prevented — but not before the attacker took a copy of some client data.

“Because protecting our customers’ data is our top priority, we paid the cybercriminal’s demand with confirmation that the copy they removed had been destroyed,” a statement from Blackbaud explained.

Harvard has worked with Blackbaud since 2006 for “information and insights for strategic engagement and fundraising efforts,” according to the email.

The incident also affected St. Paul’s Parish and the Harvard Catholic Center, according to a Wednesday email to parishioners from Reverend Wiliam T. Kelly, a Catholic chaplain and pastor of St. Paul’s Parish.

“The cybercriminal was able to remove a copy of a subset of constituent data from several of Blackbaud’s clients, including the St. Paul’s Catholic Community,” Kelly wrote.

Kelly told parishioners he does not believe they need to take any action in response to the incident at this time.

The breach also impacted Boston University and WBUR.

The University and Blackbaud did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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