Millions of student exams, tests and data exposed?

On September 19, Darren Pauli reported:

Multiple zero-day security vulnerabilities have been found in the world’s most popular educational software – holes that allow students to change grades and download unpublished exams, whilst allowing criminals to steal personal information.

Vulnerabilities in the Blackboard Learn platform have the potential to affect millions of school and university students and thousands of institutions around the world.

The platform is used by the United States military to train soliders.

After several weeks of investigation by university IT managers, security professionals and SC Magazine, Blackboard Learn has acknowledged it is sending a security advisory to customers to address the issue.

Read more on CRN.

On September 22, Blackboard responded to the concerns on their blog. Jessica Finnefrock writes, in part:

So how does that finding contrast with some of the headlines you may have read? Put simply: although these issues are important, and we’re committed to fixing them quickly, most of them could only have a limited impact at the class level, do not seriously threaten the overall institution or system data, and – most importantly – there have been no client reports of exploitation of any of these vulnerabilities. Most of the issues raised are common to lots of Web applications, not just Blackboard Learn. That doesn’t make them less important – but it is important to understand that their scope and potential impact are generally low.

What are the issues exactly? Most involve common attacks like phishing. To give you an example, a successful exploit would require an authenticated user with a valid login to create a malicious website and then create a link within Blackboard to that website. The user would need to convince another user to actively click on a suspicious link and provide their user credentials again. These issues do not involve actual system break-in or data vulnerabilities such as SQL injections.

What’s the risk? While the exploits could enable access to another user’s account, a successful attack is not highly probable, requires significant user intervention, and even then exposure would be limited to only functions which may be performed by the impacted user. These issues would not allow access to the entire system for grades or other system-wide information. The likelihood of an administrator account being compromised is low, and any attempted malicious actions would be logged and traceable.

Read more on Blackboard.

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