maryland capitol building

Sensitive Information of Over 1.4 Million Students 'Improperly Stored' by Maryland Government

A state audit found that the personal information of over 1 million students and more than 200,000 teachers was at risk of identity theft.

A state audit found that Maryland’s education department improperly stored the “sensitive, personally identifiable” information of more than 1.4 million students and more than 200,000 teachers, leaving them at risk of having that information stolen.

The July 2 report, completed by the state legislature’s auditing office, discovered that student and teacher names and Social Security information was not encrypted — as recommended by Maryland state policy — and in “clear text,” The Washington Post reported. In addition, the databases were not “adequately protected” by the use of data loss prevention software, according to the report.

The auditors noted that the information stored by the department is most commonly used for identity theft.

“Accordingly, appropriate information system security controls need to exist to ensure that this information is safeguarded and not improperly disclosed,” the audit reads.

Maryland has already been in the headlines recently for data security issues. Earlier this month, the state reported that the names and Social Security numbers of as many as 78,000 residents from two older databases run by the state’s labor department had been accessed in a cyber attack. That information belonged to people who received unemployment benefits in 2012 or sought their general equivalency diplomas in 2009, 2010 or 2014, according to the Post.

The education department audit also found that there is not evidence that student data managed by third-party contractors was properly stored. The contracts with outside companies did not have assurances regarding data retention and backup or disaster recovery, according to the audit.

Jonathan Deveaux, the head of enterprise data protection at technology security company comforte AG, said that the report offers a “rare glimpse” into the challenges of keeping systems up to date against potential security gaps.

“The audit revealed a problem that most organizations face – reducing, or eliminating, legacy operating systems which often contain exploitable vulnerabilities,” Deveaux said. “From a logistics point of view, there are tools to help remotely upgrade operating systems. However, other factors need to be considered, such as availability of services, applications which may also need to be updated, and other resource availability.”

The report recommended that the department start encrypting its student data regardless of the age of the database and seek to ensure that existing and future agreements with outside contractors include provisions addressing data security.

Karen Salmon, the state superintendent of schools, wrote in a response to the audit that her department would most recommendations dealing with database security and computer updates would be implemented by the end of September, the Post reported. The department’s IT division would determine an appropriate encryption method as well, Salmon said.

Deveaux said the large costs of updating systems and potentially long time commitments can be intimidating for many organizations.

“With the high costs associated with cyber incidents, the fact remains that it is not easy for IT departments to keep all systems and computers up to date,” Deveaux said. “Cybersecurity providers can help organizations get to a secured-state faster by 'operationalizing' their solutions. Easier deployment, like integrations that are transparent to existing systems, will help reduce the need for service outages, minimize change requirements, and reduce resource impacts.”

About the Author

Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • The Power of a Layered Approach to Safety

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown. Read Now

  • How a Security System Can Enhance Arena Safety and the Fan Experience

    Ensuring guests have both a memorable experience and a safe one is no small feat for your physical security team. Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, and other large event venues are increasingly leveraging new technologies to transform the fan experience and maintain a high level of security. The goal is to preserve the integrity and excitement of the event while enhancing security and remaining “behind the scenes.” Read Now

  • Protecting Data is Critical

    To say that the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a part of everyday life would be a dramatic understatement. At this point, you would be hard-pressed to find an electronic device that is not connected to the internet. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • A8V MIND

    A8V MIND

    Hexagon’s Geosystems presents a portable version of its Accur8vision detection system. A rugged all-in-one solution, the A8V MIND (Mobile Intrusion Detection) is designed to provide flexible protection of critical outdoor infrastructure and objects. Hexagon’s Accur8vision is a volumetric detection system that employs LiDAR technology to safeguard entire areas. Whenever it detects movement in a specified zone, it automatically differentiates a threat from a nonthreat, and immediately notifies security staff if necessary. Person detection is carried out within a radius of 80 meters from this device. Connected remotely via a portable computer device, it enables remote surveillance and does not depend on security staff patrolling the area. 3

  • ResponderLink

    ResponderLink

    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an Alarm.com company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3

  • PE80 Series

    PE80 Series by SARGENT / ED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin

    ASSA ABLOY, a global leader in access solutions, has announced the launch of two next generation exit devices from long-standing leaders in the premium exit device market: the PE80 Series by SARGENT and the PED4000/PED5000 Series by Corbin Russwin. These new exit devices boast industry-first features that are specifically designed to provide enhanced safety, security and convenience, setting new standards for exit solutions. The SARGENT PE80 and Corbin Russwin PED4000/PED5000 Series exit devices are engineered to meet the ever-evolving needs of modern buildings. Featuring the high strength, security and durability that ASSA ABLOY is known for, the new exit devices deliver several innovative, industry-first features in addition to elegant design finishes for every opening. 3