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

  • Survey: Less Than Half of IT Leaders are Confident in their IoT Security Plans

    Viakoo recently released findings from its 2024 IoT Security Crisis: By the Numbers. The survey uncovers insights from IT and security executives, exposes a dramatic surge in enterprise IoT security risks, and highlights a critical missing piece in the IoT security technology stack. The clarion call is clear: IT leaders urgently need to secure their IoT infrastructure one application at a time in an automated and expeditious fashion. Read Now

  • ASIS International and SIA Release “Complexities in the Global Security Market: 2024 Through 2026”

    ASIS International and the Security Industry Association (SIA) – the leading security associations for the security industry – have released ”Complexities in the Global Security Market: 2024 Through 2026”, a new research report that provides insights into the equipment, technologies, and employment of the global security industry, including regional market breakouts. SIA and ASIS partnered with global analytics and advisory firm Omdia to complete the research. Read Now

  • President Biden Issues Executive Order to Bolster U.S Port Cybersecurity

    On Wednesday, President Biden issued an Executive Order to bolster the security of the nation’s ports, alongside a series of additional actions that will strengthen maritime cybersecurity and more Read Now

  • Report: 15 Percent of All Emails Sent in 2023 Were Malicious

    VIPRE Security Group recently released its report titled “Email Security in 2024: An Expert Look at Email-Based Threats”. The 2024 predictions for email security in this report are based on an analysis of over 7 billion emails processed by VIPRE worldwide during 2023. This equates to almost one email for everyone on the planet. Of those, roughly 1 billion (or 15%) were malicious. Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Whitepapers

New Products

  • EasyGate SPT and SPD

    EasyGate SPT SPD

    Security solutions do not have to be ordinary, let alone unattractive. Having renewed their best-selling speed gates, Cominfo has once again demonstrated their Art of Security philosophy in practice — and confirmed their position as an industry-leading manufacturers of premium speed gates and turnstiles. 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

  • Hanwha QNO-7012R

    Hanwha QNO-7012R

    The Q Series cameras are equipped with an Open Platform chipset for easy and seamless integration with third-party systems and solutions, and analog video output (CVBS) support for easy camera positioning during installation. A suite of on-board intelligent video analytics covers tampering, directional/virtual line detection, defocus detection, enter/exit, and motion detection. 3