Data breaches

Maryland School Data Breach Exposes Student Information

Back to News & Insights

Are schools doing a good enough job of keeping student data safe?

Many parents take it for granted that the schools their children attend retain a significant amount of data on each student. A typical education record includes a student’s name, address and birth date, as well as information about their parents or guardians, according to the U.S. Department of Education. A record will contain academic and extracurricular details, but also data of a more personal nature, such as Social Security Numbers or health history.

There are legitimate reasons why schools may need to store this information. For instance, these records are crucial for students who plan to apply for college after they graduate. They are also used to verify school attendance for immigrant children seeking to apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

However, parents may rightly be concerned about the degree of security guarding this data. Child identity theft is a large concern, and the possibility of hackers breaking into a school’s system and stealing this vital information is one that deserves to be taken seriously.

Maryland data breach prompts legislative action

About 1,000 former students who attended Frederick County Public Schools in Maryland between November 2005 and November 2006 may have had their names, birth dates and Social Security Numbers stolen in a data breach, The Frederick News-Post reported. School officials believe that the actual theft of the data occurred in 2010, but it was not discovered until September 2016, when a former student noticed that the information was for sale online.

In the wake of this incident, one Maryland state legislator has proposed a new law that will require organizations to grant victims of this breach and all other incidents up to five years of free credit monitoring services, according to a report by Government Technology. Delegate David E. Vogt III, R-District 4, also wants to remove the requirement for school districts to transmit student information to the state’s Department of Education if it cannot adopt better security measures.

The news source added that many school systems in the state and across the country are struggling to keep up with the demands for more student information to be collected for third parties, including education researchers and consultants. A Maryland Department of Legislative Services audit of the school system in 2015 found numerous weaknesses and called for better internal controls.

Youth identity theft complicates lives

Of all the forms of identity theft, that which impacts youths is among the hardest to spot. While many adults have gotten into the habit of closely monitoring their financial accounts and regularly checking their credit, children – and their families – rarely do so. All too often, parents assume that their young children could never face credit issues, since they have no financial history to speak of.

But this oversight presents a prime target for identity thieves. If they are able to steal the personal information belonging to young individuals, they could have many years to use it before anyone discovers that something is amiss. By the time the victims reach adulthood and begin to apply for credit of their own, they quickly realize that their finances are in ruins. The repercussions can last a lifetime.

Credit monitoring is a great tool for detecting identity theft, because it’s an ongoing review of credit files and credit inquiries associated with your personal information. Identity Guard offers a variety of products that can fit your lifestyle and your family’s lifestyle. No one likes to be the last person to know that their data has been compromised, and with Identity Guard you don’t have to be.