University of Alaska discovered a breach in February, 2018 that they are first revealing now?

The following is not quite the typical press release like we’ve been seeing on an almost daily basis. If this notice doesn’t include typos, then it appears that the University of Alaska first became aware that they had a problem in February of 2018. They started an investigation that they expanded in March, 2018 after finding evidence of access to email accounts that took place during  a two-week period between January and February 0f 2018.  The university says they then worked diligently over several months to determine identity and contact information for those who needed to be notified.

“Several months” does not explain how it took until the end of April, 2019 for them to notify and reveal this breach. Why did that piece take so long? If you look at the data types involved, specified in the notice below, there was a lot of personal, financial, and other kinds of data accessed by the attacker. Given that the university first discovered this breach because users alerted them that something was wrong, you would hope that people who were at risk of ID theft would have been notified in April, 2018 — not April, 2019.

The notice does not say how many people had to be notified of this breach.

Here is how the press release begins:

FAIRBANKS, Alaska, April 26, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — The University of Alaska is notifying potentially affected students and individuals after an investigation into a data privacy incident involving potential unauthorized access to certain UA email accounts.  University of Alaska is notifying individuals whose records were or may have been in the email accounts at the time of the unauthorized access and is providing these individuals with information and resources that can be used to better protect against the possible misuse of information.

What Happened?  In February 2018, University of Alaska (UA) began receiving reports from UAOnline system users of issues accessing their UAOnline accounts. UA immediately took steps to terminate unauthorized access, initiated an investigation, and began working with third-party forensic experts to assist in determining the impact of this activity. Based on the investigation, UA determined that certain users’ UAOnline account passwords were changed by an unauthorized third party. In February 2018, UA notified all UAOnline users whose accounts were affected and upgraded security protocols for password changes.

Following the notification to affected UAOnline users, UA continued to investigate the unauthorized access to the UA system to confirm the full nature and scope of the activity.  That investigation included a thorough review of other university systems and applications. Through this review, on or around March 28, 2018, the investigation determined that an unauthorized user also may have accessed certain email accounts between January 31, 2018 and February 15, 2018. UA expanded the investigation to include a comprehensive programmatic and manual review of the affected email accounts to determine whether protected information was present and to whom such records related.  UA then worked diligently over several months to determine the identity and contact information for individuals whose information may have been present in the email accounts at the time of the unauthorized access.

What Information Was Involved? The information that may have been present in the affected email accounts varies by individual; however, it may include an individual’s name, government issued identification number, date of birth, digital signature, driver’s license number, usernames and/or passwords, financial account numbers, health and/or health insurance information, passport number, and UA student identification number. For certain individuals, Social Security number may also have been present in the affected email accounts.

What UA Is Doing. Upon learning of potential unauthorized access to certain email accounts, UA immediately took steps to respond and worked with outside experts to confirm the nature and scope of the email incident and identify any individuals whose information may have been present in the emails potentially subject to unauthorized access. UA is notifying potentially affected individuals of this incident, providing them with access to credit monitoring, and providing information and access to resources they may use to better protect against potential misuse of personal information, should they feel it appropriate to do so.  While UA has security measures in place to protect information in its care, it is also taking steps to evaluate additional safeguards and review policies and procedures in order to protect the security of information on its systems.

What You Can Do. UA encourages potentially affected individuals to review the information it is providing on “Steps Individuals Can Take To Protect Information.”

You can access the full press release with information on how to protect yourself here.

Source:  University of Alaska

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