Leon County Schools explains the Florida Virtual School Data Leak

To follow up on my post about a Florida vendor’s misconfiguration  that impacted 368,000 students  as well as thousands of former and current Leon County Schools employees: I took marked exception to some of the FLVS‘s initial claims because I felt it was misleading to try to cry “hack” when it was a misconfigured server that exposed data to the world with no login required.  I am glad to see that today, Leon County Schools issued its own press release. It seems to be much more consistent with the facts of this case I know them:

Leon County Schools (LCS) learned of a recent data incident with a third party vendor, Florida Virtual School (FLVS), involving certain staff and student personal information from 2013. Additionally, Florida Virtual School has indicated that other student and teacher records may have been compromised from May 2016 to February 2018.

LCS immediately launched an internal investigation. In addition, we immediately contacted the Florida Department of Law EEnforcement (FDLE) who opened an investigation. Florida Virtual School has contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who is also conducted an investigation.

Through the efforts of forensic experts, a FLVS misconfigured server was identified as the source of some of this compromised information. The data on this server was from a 2013 partnership between Leon County Schools and UCompass, subsequently purchased by FLVS. From this 2013 partnership, it was identified that some current and former teachers’ social security numbers were compromised. LCS has notified those affected current and former employees through traditional mail. While the FBI and FDLE investigations are ongoing, LCS has initiated personal identity protection, inclusive of credit monitoring, immediately for these affected parties.

Forensic experts also identified additional student and teacher information that may have been compromised at FLVS. As required by law, Florida Virtual School has posted information about this data security incident on their website.

Leon County Schools is in the process of directly notifying these teachers and students.

Although the investigations are on-going, we do believe that the scope of the breach may be substantial. We are taking this matter very seriously. We want to assure you that the privacy and security of the information in our care is one of our highest priorities.

That statement is consistent with the files that had been shared with this site last year by one researcher, and then again this year by a different party.  The two sets of files I was given were not identical, but the 2017 data set included a file with 368,000 student records and files from a directory called lcsdata.

Of note: I am pleased to learn from a fellow journalist that FLVS is no longer claiming that they were the ones to first notify Leon County Schools or FDLE.  My concern about their claiming that they had discovered this on their own on February 12 and then contacted LCS, FDLE, and the FBI had nothing to do with bragging rights or giving this site any credit  for alerting LCS to the leak.  The concern was that FLVS should acknowledge if they did NOT discover the leak on their own for years, because then someone  needs to ask them why and how this happened. When Flash Gordon accessed files in June 2017 that had no login required – was any of that logged? Were there any alerts triggered? Did anyone check logs on that server ever after FLVS acquired it from UCompass?  When someone else downloaded data on February 5 of this year, was that logged? Were any alerts triggered? Did anyone check logs or audit them?  Did FLVS have any monitoring or auditing in place for the server? If so, where and how did things fail?

There are lessons to be learned here, but they won’t be learned if there’s any cover-up or attempt to spin what happened.

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