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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Arizona community college data breach carries huge price tag

An Arizona community college recently became the latest academic institution to suffer significant financial damage due to a major data breach, once more highlighting the importance of secure file transfer tools and other data protection solutions.

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An Arizona community college recently became the latest academic institution to suffer significant financial damage due to a major data breach, once more highlighting the importance of secure file transfer tools and other data protection solutions.

In April, the FBI informed the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) that cybercriminals were selling sensitive information stolen from the district's computer networks. This information included Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, bank account data and more.

Now, seven months later, the MCCCD has notified approximately 2.4 million current and former employees and students who may have been affected by this incident.

"There was a tremendous amount of data, and the forensics investigation around this was very complex," said Tom Gariepy, a MCCCD spokesperson, The Republic reported. "They had to look at a number of different systems and servers and databases."

Gariepy added that there were no reports that the exposed data has been used inappropriately to date, the news source noted.

A costly incident
According to the Gariepy, the school district's governing board has approved a $7 million expenditure to notify affected employees and students and offer these individuals a free year of identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. This money will also go toward the maintenance of a call center.

However, these are not the only cost the MCCCD is facing due to the data breach. Gariepy told SC Magazine that the district will spend a large amount of money to upgrade and implement a variety of security measures, including firewalls and real-time network monitoring.

Additionally, it is important to note that the MCCCD may see further financial costs due to the reputational damage caused by the breach. People are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers posed by lost, stolen or exposed sensitive data. Students, as well as teachers and other professionals, will be far more likely to avoid MCCCD if they come across information concerning this data breach. And given the longevity of news stories of this sort, it is probable that these individuals will indeed learn of the incident.

Academic institutions, as well as organizations in general, should therefore take robust steps to proactively protect their data. The use of high-grade secure file transfer solutions and other security tools can play a key part in these efforts.