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National Theatre hack forces password reset

Minor drama

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Some 17,000 culture vultures registered to the UK's National Theatre website need to reset their passwords after the site was hacked.

The 20 February attack hit systems storing the logins of 17,000 (or around three per cent) of the 500,000 plus registered with the site. Only email, password, name and contact information was disclosed by the hack. Motives and perpetrators remain unidentified.

A spokeswoman emphasised that database systems holding credit and debit card details were not affected by the hack. The NT has sent out email alerts (copy below) to affected customers on Monday apologising for the security snafu.

I am writing to inform you that we were notified over the weekend of a security incident that took place on Saturday 20th February which may have led to your NT website account (email, password, name and contact information only) being accessed by an unauthorised user.

Your payment information is safely encrypted, so no financial or booking details have been viewed. 

The affected system has been secured, however we would ask you to change your password on the NT site and it would be prudent to do so on other sites where you use the same password.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

An NT spokeswoman told El Reg that security at the website has already been tightened up following the discovery of the hack and may be further improved as a result of a security review. Measures such as stricter controls on third party access may be applied, she added.

Affected users simply have to change their password, so the attack is no great drama. What the security breach does illustrate, however, is the folly of not using different strong passwords on separate websites. The common 'one key to open them all' approach makes even the breach on a low level account a potential risk against more sensitive webmail and online banking logins.

The National, which is based in London, is one of the Britain's two main publicly funded theatre companies. The other crown jewel in England's state-backed theatre world is the Royal Shakespeare Company. ®

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