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updated 10/3/2012 5:20:03 PM ET 2012-10-03T21:20:03

Amid rising tuition at universities around the world and what protesters have called a deteriorating quality of education, hacktivists have attacked the websites of the world's top 100 schools, stolen data and published at least some of it online.

The dumps, comprised of 120,000 records, were published on at least three sites by Team GhostShell, a group of politically motivated hackers with ties to Anonymous, and included the names, schedules, email addresses and passwords of both students and faculty.

Most notable were dumps from Michigan State, Manchester University and the University of Edinburgh who all appear to store at least some passwords without encryption in plain text.

At the University of Edinburgh's biology department, not only were the plain text passwords leaked, but so were the secret question answers. The dump from the physics department at Manchester University revealed full names and corresponding email addresses and passwords, which were, in many cases, simply the user's first name.

In a Pastebin post that announced the operation as #ProjectWestWind, the hackers pointed to tuition fee spikes in the U.S., tough rule changes in Europe and a shift in education from valuable skills to "simply memorizing large chunks of text in exchange for good grades" as the basis for their attack.

Team GhostShell definitely left its mark today, but its members were hardly the first ones to target university websites. The hackers said the universities' networks were full of malicious code already, a claim that's more believable than it is not.

Team GhostShell became known in August after hacking and publishing stolen data from more than 100 websites, including banks and government agencies.

Follow Ben on Twitter@benkwx.

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