Maryland 1.4M Students’, 200K Teachers’ Personal Data Exposed

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Yesterday The Washington Post reported that sensitive, personally identifiable information of more than 1.4 million students and more than 200,000 teachers was improperly stored by the Maryland State Department of Education, leaving them at risk of identity theft:   

Maryland says confidential data must be encrypted. For 1.4M students, it wasn’t. 

Experts Comments: 

Jonathan Deveaux, Head of Enterprise Data Protection at comforte AG:   

“Typically, security audits remain private within organizations, so this report offers a rare glimpse into how challenging it is to keep up to date against potential cybersecurity gaps.  The audit revealed a problem that most organizations face – reducing (or eliminating) legacy operating systems which often contain exploitable vulnerabilities.  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.   

From a cost perspective, ROI against updating operating systems was difficult to calculate in the past. The main factors organizations used to determine ROI were operational efficiency and staff performance. Today, there is enough post-cyber event data to help IT and Security leaders explain the risk of a cyber incident due to outdated operating system vulnerabilities.  By example, the hack that occurred on June 2019 where up to 78,000 names and SSNs were accessed, is estimated to cost an organization over $11.5 million (Google average cost per record of a data breach).   

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.  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.” 

Laurence Pitt, Global Security Strategy Director at Juniper Networks:

“Every day there is a new data breach reported in the news, or a new vulnerability exposed against outdated or legacy operating systems. There is no excuse for not having encryption for data-at-rest on devices to ensure that if it is accessed externally, then it’s of no use. Also, there is no excuse for not having legacy operating systems solutions, such as system-hardening (Deep Freeze, for example), which would prevent a hacker from being able to make unauthorized changes. It is shocking to see that a public entity would allow themselves to be so exposed, when they are protecting sensitive data for so many people.” 



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