Washington State University Gets Schooled In Data Security
This year, Washington State University learned a hard lesson in Data Security 101. It was recently revealed that the university discovered a significant breach on April 21st, 2017. But WSU kept quiet about the crime until June 9th, when they began mailing out letters to the affected parties. Turns out, over a million individuals had their personal information stolen!
So, why did WSU stay tight-lipped for 7 weeks? The college’s rationale behind the delay was that they needed time to consult local authorities and launch an internal investigation. Keep reading to discover which details were finally revealed by WSU’s president, Kirk H. Schulz.
Personal Data Stolen from One Million Affiliates
What exactly happened during the WSU security breach? Well, an 85-pound hard drive was stolen from a university storage unit in Olympia, WA. Within that drive, full names, social security numbers, and some medical information were stored for about 1,000,000 affiliates. Needless to say, this personal data could be used for malicious purposes, including identity theft and impersonation.
Thus far, Washington State University reports there’s no evidence the data has been accessed. However, the college’s VP of communications, Phil Weiler, reminded the public that this theft wasn’t a “quick smash and grab” operation. A lot of effort went into tampering with the storage center’s lock, meaning the criminal may have known the hard drive’s contents. As of June 18, no charges or arrests were pending in this case.
WSU’s Plans for Cleaning Up the Messy Aftermath
So, what is Washington State University doing to help those affected individuals? In an official statement, the college’s president, Kirk H. Schulz announced that free credit monitoring and protection measures against identity theft were being offered. There’s also a dedicated hotline that worried students, alumni, and citizens can call. Schulz’s apology also briefly detailed the measures that WSU was taking to improve their data security, including looking into the IT department’s practices and how employees are taught to handle data.
WSU’s committed approach to implementing damage control is inspiring. Indeed, their actions, aside from waiting so long to inform the victims, are a decent blueprint for how businesses and institutions should behave after a security breach. Many readers, however, may agree that better preventative measures should be taken beforehand. Prevention is more cost effective in the long run, as opposed to the expense, the inconvenience, and the loss of trust caused by data breaches.
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