UNESCO chief responds to 'hacking' into online application platform

    UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. Photo by: Ministerio da Cultura / CC BY

    In an age of increasing data theft, it was perhaps only a matter of time until a major development organization got put on high alert. That happend last week, when a German magazine raised questions about UNESCO’s online application platform.

    The German magazine reported that simply by modifying URLs, it had been possible until April 28 for anyone registered with the agency’s online platform to find application material submitted between 2006 and 2011 by hundreds of thousands of other applicants, including for full-time and internship positions. An internship applicant informed the U.N. agency of the privacy issue last month, but got no response, Der Spiegel reported. UNESCO did respond to the magazine on April 27 and took two databases offline, Der Spiegel continued.

    >> UNESCO Online Application Platform: Privacy Breach Discovered

    On Tuesday (May 3), UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova addressed these concerns in a conversation with reporters in Washington.

    Responding to a question by Devex, Bokova said: “On the intrusion, I can say that I regret it. It can happen in any system. We have seen hackers and people getting into such systems. We have immediately shut it and remedied. I would say that from my point of view, I deplore it that if somebody noticed that there is such a breach, instead of alerting us went and picked up some personal data, which I don’t think is correct.”

    The Bulgarian civil servant continued: “We’re currently analyzing and exploring and seeing what actually happened and what are the consequences of what happened. I hope there won’t be consequences for people. Definitely, we’re taking all the security measures, to do it with the best of our knowledge. But, systems are vulnerable - we’ve seen very many cases around the world, and I hope this will not have any consequences.”

    Bokova was visiting Washington to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.

    About the author

    • Rolf Rosenkranz

      Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.