School Accreditation Organization Data Breach Exposed Sensitive Information on Students, Parents, and Teachers Online

Seen on WebsitePlanet:

Cybersecurity Researcher, Jeremiah Fowler, discovered and reported to WebsitePlanet a non-password protected database that contained 680k records. Upon further investigation, it was identified that these records were related to educational institutions. Documents inside the database suggested that it belonged to the Southern Association of Independent Schools, Inc (SAIS).

In my many years as a security researcher, I have seen everything from millions of credit card numbers and health records, to internal documents from organizations of all sizes. However, this discovery is among the most sensitive data collections I have ever encountered. The database contained a diverse collection of sensitive records that, when exposed, could unlock a wide range of potential risks. The files included multiple types of student and teacher records, health information, teacher background checks and social security numbers (SSN), active shooter and lockdown notifications, maps of schools, financial budgets, and much more. The documents ranged in date from 2012-2023.

As Fowler described it, the database contained:

  • Total number of records: 682,438 with a total size of 572.8 GB.
  • Documents were in a wide range of formats, including: PDF, Excel, PPTX, doc, docx, png, jpg, pages, and more.
  • Internal documents from multiple schools and educational institutions, which contained personally identifiable information (PII) and private medical information of students.
  • Teacher, faculty, and staff information such as qualifications, interviews, background checks, drug and alcohol testing, salary information, and more.
  • Other notable documents included budgets and financial reports, vehicle registrations, insurance policies, tax records, training documents, manuals, and other miscellaneous guides or certificates.

When contacted by DataBreaches, Fowler indicated that he did not know for how long the database had been publicly accessible and he spotted no logging records in the exposed database. Nor does he know whether they have notified affected individuals, although it is now more than two months since they secured the database.

On July 28, DataBreaches sent an email inquiry to SAIS asking for how long the data had been publicly exposed, whether they had logs showing how many accesses there were to the data during that period, and whether any schools or regulators had been notified of this leak. No reply has been received.


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