6,000 Missouri State U. Students Have Social Security Numbers Exposed on Web

KTTS alerts us to a breach involving Missouri State University students.  A statement on MSU’s web site explains:

Missouri State University officials are notifying 6,030 College of Education students that their social security numbers may have been compromised as a result of an internal security breach.

In October and November 2010, in preparation for an accreditation, the College of Education prepared lists of students by semester. The lists, which included social security numbers, were for nine semesters between 2005 and 2009 (fall, spring, summer). A list was created for each semester, so there were nine lists. The lists were prepared in electronic format in October and November 2010 to be available on secure servers to the College of Education personnel working on the accreditation, as well as the accreditation team.

Unfortunately, these lists of names were posted in October/November 2010 on an unsecured server. As a result, all nine lists ended up on Google. In all, 6,030 names with social security numbers were compromised and posted on the web.

The university learned of the breach on Feb. 22 when an individual contacted the university to report the breach. Since that time, the university has taken the following actions:

  • The university has worked with Google to pull all the lists – the ninth and final one was removed over this past weekend. It appears there have been very limited “hits” on these lists since last October/November, but there have been some.
  • The university is in the process of contacting all 6,030 students to inform them of the breach.
  • The university is offering to pay for consumer identify theft protection insurance for all involved.  At a negotiated rate of $7 per person, the total cost will be about $42,210.
  • The university has notified the Missouri Attorney General, which is an obligation under Missouri Statutes for a breach of this magnitude.
  • The university has initiated disciplinary action against the employee who posted the information on the unsecured server.
  • Finally, the university has properly secured the lists for the College of Education’s accreditation, and officials are working with all other college deans to ensure that policies and processes are followed to secure all university information.

“It is very unfortunate that this breach occurred,” said Jeff Morrissey, chief information officer at Missouri State. “We are taking this breach very seriously, and we hope these steps will prevent inappropriate use of the personal information that was compromised.”

In 2009, MSU experienced another exposure breach, although that one involved an email error.

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