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3.3 Million Student Loan Records Exposed

From the tech security site, Dark Reading:

Violation Of Sensitive Data Storage Policy Led To Exposure Of Info On 3.3 Million Student Loan Recipients

Removable media device stolen from Educational Credit Management Corp.’s (ECMC) headquarters contained Social Security numbers, names, addresses, dates of birth of people who had received federal student loans

By Kelly Jackson Higgins
Mar 29, 2010

A removable media device containing personal data on 3.3 million people was stolen from the Minnesota headquarters of federal student loan guarantor Educational Credit Management Corp. (ECMC) last week — and the data should never have been copied onto the device in the first place.

ECMC, which handles and insures more than $11 billion worth of student loans for the U.S. Department of Education, discovered on March 23 that the device had been stolen. The firm is currently in the process of sending letters to all of the affected loan recipients, some of whom date back to as long as 15 years ago. Their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth were on the stolen device, but no bank account or financial data, according to ECMC.

David Hawn, chief business development officer for ECMC, said in an interview that storing such sensitive data on a removable device was a "very clear violation of our company policies and protocols." He would not specify whether the device was a USB stick, hard drive, or other type of device due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation by law enforcement. Hawn also was not able to reveal whether the data was encrypted, either…

Hawn says it doesn’t appear the thief or thieves were targeting specific information in the crime. "There’s nothing to suggest that they were aware of what they were taking," Hawn says.

And thus far, ECMC says there’s been no evidence of any abuse of the data. The company is offering the affected victims free credit monitoring and reporting with Experian.

ECMC’s problem isn’t unique: Ipswitch File Transfer will release a study tomorrow that shows that 90 percent of IT and security professionals use thumb drives or external devices to move data. Few companies bother encrypting data on those devices, either, says Frank Kenney, vice president of global strategy at Ipswitch. "Encryption generally doesn’t happen. It’s rare," Kenney says.

"We were shocked by how many people are using [these devices] to share or move large files," Kenney says…

Mind you, these are the same people who claim we will save billions and be so much better off once all of our medical records are online.

(Thanks to BillK for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “3.3 Million Student Loan Records Exposed”

  1. BillK says:

    I can hardly wait until the Feds are the only source of student loans.

    From Dark Reading:

    Violation Of Sensitive Data Storage Policy Led To Exposure Of Info On 3.3 Million Student Loan Recipients

    By Kelly Jackson Higgins

    A removable media device containing personal data on 3.3 million people was stolen from the Minnesota headquarters of federal student loan guarantor Educational Credit Management Corp. (ECMC) last week — and the data should never have been copied onto the device in the first place.

    ECMC, which handles and insures more than $11 billion worth of student loans for the U.S. Department of Education, discovered on March 23 that the device had been stolen. The firm is currently in the process of sending letters to all of the affected loan recipients, some of whom date back to as long as 15 years ago. Their names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth were on the stolen device, but no bank account or financial data, according to ECMC.

    David Hawn, chief business development officer for ECMC, said in an interview that storing such sensitive data on a removable device was a “very clear violation of our company policies and protocols.” He would not specify whether the device was a USB stick, hard drive, or other type of device due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing investigation by law enforcement. Hawn also was not able to reveal whether the data was encrypted, either.

    This situation was unfortunate in that it had a human element to it…It really was a disappointment to all of us that this had occurred,” Hawn says, and the company is in the process of doing a full-blown review of its internal security policies and plans to “make changes.”

    “We unfortunately learned about this the hard way, and we are working diligently to shore that up,” he says. “Our systems security infrastructure is very robust, and in fact since this incident occurred, by way of precaution we have hired an external agency to perform various penetration tests on our firewalls — all the testing has been negative.”

    Hawn says it doesn’t appear the thief or thieves were targeting specific information in the crime. “There’s nothing to suggest that they were aware of what they were taking,” Hawn says. …

    http://www.darkreading.com/insiderthreat/security/privacy/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=224200648&cid=nl_DR_DAILY_2010-03-30_t

    Or perhaps this is just pretext to introducing legislation requiring that a new federal agency handle it… because of course nothing this important could be left to the private sector since, as Obama likes to say, the private sector obviously “messed it up.”

    Insert your favorite conspiracy theory here.

  2. canary says:

    Were the Obama’s student loans info stolen. The loans they griped about dragging out to pay, while they enjoyed an in home nanny, private schools for children, expensive world traveling & dining, etc.

    • proreason says:

      and using his home as a piggy bank by refinancing over and over.

      But he wasn’t worried about money then and he isn’t worried about money now.

      In the nick of time, he sold a million books overnight (but try to find somebody who read it), Thuderbutt got a job paying $300K annually, for which she didn’t need to show up, and a friend bought the lot next door.

      That’s how life works in entitlement country.

      Only greedy people care about money.

  3. Mithrandir says:

    SIGH!

    Now I understand why the early pilgrims and other immigrants would risk life and limb on the high seas to come to America—TO GET AWAY FROM GOVERNMENT! –anything is worth the risk! It is MUCH better to die on the high seas, suffer any indignity, than to stay and live under oppression.

    If there is another planet out there which needs settlers…..I will gladly go to get away from this cesspool of idiot voters, and the turds they vote for, to sprout legs, walk out and lead them.

    So sick of all this garbage…


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