More details on the Pepperdine University breach

A spokesperson for the university sent me the following statement, dated December 7, on the recently disclosed breach involving the theft of a laptop from an employee’s car on November 10:

Pepperdine University officials were notified that restricted information of current and former employees, including students, might have been compromised through a stolen University laptop on November 12, 2012. The theft was reported to law enforcement and Pepperdine began its own investigation into the matter immediately.

The laptop computer, stolen from the car of an authorized University employee, contained data dating back to 2008 involving as many as 8,300 Pepperdine campus community members. Of these, approximately 75 percent were former students.

In response to my e-mail inquiry, the spokesperson informs me that the other 25% were employee (faculty and staff) data.

Since discovering the theft, the University has verified records and made certain that it identified all names that may be compromised, as well as created a tailored program to respond to the incident. Additionally, the University contracted with ID Experts, a national leader in data breach prevention, remediation, and recovery services, to assist with the University’s response to this unfortunate incident.

Pepperdine completed an assessment of the files in question on November 28, 2012, and began notifications on December 6, 2012. Affected persons will receive specific instructions for accessing the fraud protection and other services being offered free of charge. Beginning Friday, December 7, an ID Experts call center will be available to help address individual concerns and questions. That number is 877-580-9770. The number for international callers is 1-503-597-7714. An informational website has been created to further address questions and concerns:

While the statement is silent on data types, the linked FAQ on the breach indicates the information included

your name and potentially Social Security number, address or date of birth. We don’t have a list of what information was involved for each person, regardless; each person is being offered free credit monitoring and services from ID Experts to help protect them (even if your SSN was not included).

The fact that they do not know what information was involved for each person suggests no backup or at the very least, no updated backup.

I had also asked the university whether the employee was following any applicable security policies when the laptop was left in an unattended vehicle. The FAQ points us to the Records Management Policy. That policy states:

Specifically, department managers should:

  • Create only the records the department needs.
  • Retain records according to the Records Retention Schedule.
  • Maintain records in appropriate storage and locations.
  • Limit access to records of confidential information on a ‘need to know’ basis.
  • Secure access to records of restricted information (e.g. SSN, HIPAA, etc.) either by:
    • encrypting digital records
    • keeping physical records locked or supervised at all times.
  • Preserve records of historical significance.
  • Dispose of records no longer required in the proper manner.

It doesn’t appear that the policy was adhered to, does it?

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