WA: Wenatchee Valley College notifies former students of data breach

Rachel Schleif reports on another breach that occurred in the context of responding to a public records request:

Wenatchee Valley College accidentally released Social Security numbers of students who attended classes there 10 years ago.

The college sent letters of apology to more than 3,800 former students Monday, and urged them to place fraud alerts on their credit files as a precautionary step.

The mistake happened as the college responded to a public records request from a local law firm asking for 10 years of financial records.

Until fall 2002, the college’s record system tracked students by their Social Security numbers instead of student identification numbers.

In December, the college sent 84,000 pages of data in the response to the request and inadvertently included the Social Security numbers. A student analyzing the data found the numbers and alerted the college on March 24, said Fiscal Services Director Jonah Nicholas.

Nicholas said it’s hard to say how many of those 3,800 former students were included in the records release, but he sent letters to students who attended WVC before 2002, just in case.

The student, Brent Magarrell, said the records also included legal names of students since 2000, along with their corresponding student identification numbers. With an identification number and a birthday, one could hack into students’ college email, registration and financial records, he said.

Magarrell said he filed a complaint about the security breach with the federal Department of Education for a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Source: Wenatchee World.

Well, Magarrell may be a cockeyed optimist, as the U.S. Education Department generally does nothing in response to breaches. Oh, maybe they’d say they do something, but when you consider how many breaches there have been by FERPA-covered entities and ask yourself, “Has USED ever once cut off funding or done anything significant to a breached entity?” the answer is “no.”

At least in this case, the risk of the data being misused does seem really low. But even so….

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