One year after data theft, Primedia (RentPath) employees and applicants notified of breach

I could have sworn I had posted something about the Primedia (formerly RentPath) breach, but maybe I just tweeted it and forgot to blog it. Thankfully, Jeff Goldman of eSecurity Planet provided a preliminary media report in June.  This blog post incorporates an update to the incident.

Back in May, attorneys for Primedia notified at least several states about a breach that occurred when an independent contractor working in Primedia’s network operations was caught on tape stealing hardware on June 20, 2012. Among the stolen hardware was one backup tape containing personal information on employees and applicants.

It took almost a year to recover and analyze data from the 31 backup tapes involved in the theft, and Fishnet Security was hired to assist in the investigation. They ultimately identified 800,000 files where personal information may have been stored. Inspection of those 800,000 files revealed that there were 56,000 Social Security numbers in the files.

By May 2013, Primedia had been able to match 30,000 SSN to current and former employees and applicants and had started notifying them and offering them free credit monitoring and restoration services. The firm was still attempting to identify names and addresses corresponding to the remaining 26,000 SSN so that they could be notified, and had hired Kroll to assist.

In a follow-up letter to New Hampshire dated July 1, attorneys for Primedia reported that after notifying 26,511 in May, subsequent investigation reduced the number of additional notifications required to 9,797. The latter group was notified on June 14, 2013 – a year after the data theft.

The total number affected by this incident appears to 36,308.  As of July, the firm had no reports suggesting that any of the data had been misused.

The breach was reported to MarylandNew Hampshire, (follow-up), Vermont, and California. Other states were likely notified, too, but do not post breach notices online.

In response to the breach, Primedia hardened its security to include encryption on backup tapes,  and also enhanced physical security.

I wonder what the failure to encrypt wound up costing them for forensics, notifications, and free services.

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