Gabbitas, the publisher of the UK Indepedent Schools Guide, says an external attack caused highly sensitive data on 1,367 school children to be accessible through its website.
An investigation by the Telegraph newspaper found that the information, which included children’s names and addresses, information about their personality, learning difficulties and health, and even comments about them from their parents, was accessible on the Independent Schools Guide website via the Google search engine.
Gabbitas, which also provides parents with advice on getting their children into independent schools, says that the leak was not due to its own error, but was the result of a malicious attack by an external party.
"Someone did something to the website that meant the information was on there," Mary Palmer, marketing and communications director for Gabbitas’ parent company Prospects, told Information Age.
"Gabbitas is deeply concerned that one of its websites had been accessed illegally," the company said in a statement. "This unauthorised access was reported to the police last week and we shall be co-operating fully with them in their criminal investigation of this."
"An internal investigation has been launched and information about the external attack is being passed to the Police Cyber Crime Unit this (Monday) morning."
According to the Telegraph, the data included family details of "a leading television actor, a pop star and the son of a former Cabinet minister".
Data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office said that it "will be making inquiries into the circumstances of any potential breach of the Data Protection Act before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken".