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Educational Institutions Increasingly Vulnerable to Student Identity Theft, Data Breaches

Posted on: January 17, 2012 by Caitlin Morgan

When insuring an educational facility – whether a public school, private and charter schools, special need schools, or universities – as their broker you understand the broad range of exposures they face and the coverages and loss-control solutions they need to help mitigate risk. One exposure that is gaining traction in the news, along with other industries, is the risk faced by schools when it comes to data breaches and identity theft.

A child may be 51 times more likely to have his or her identity stolen than an adult. – Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Child ID Theft Report

– Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Child ID Theft Report A recent article in the Huffington Post highlighted what has been going in schools across the country: In Texas, for example, a hacker broke into a computer network of a local school district and found a database of about 63,000 student Social Security numbers. In Illinois, two laptops belonging to a state contractor were stolen from his car. The laptop contained Social Security numbers of nearly 8,000 special education students.

These incidents are not isolation and show the increased vulnerability of schools to student identity theft. ID Analytics estimates that more than 140,000 children are victims of identity theft each year, based on a one-year study of those enrolled in the firm’s identity protection service. And although schools warn parents to monitor their children’s credit after a data breach, credit reports only turn up 1% of fraud on children’s credit histories because thieves pair children’s Social Security numbers with new names and birth dates – this according to a study by Debix, which also sells identity protection services.

The U.S. Department of Education has warned schools not to use students’ Social Security Numbers in their databases, requesting that they use other unique identifiers instead. For example, North Dakota students are assigned a 10-digit ID number when they enroll that tracks their performance, leaving no need for Social Security numbers. But the collection and use of Social Security numbers in K-12 schools continues to remain widespread throughout school districts in 26 states, exposing schools to a tremendous risk.

As a professional insurance advisor, speak to your educational institution clients about the exposure they face when collecting this sensitive data that can be used for criminal purposes. What types of protective methods have they implemented? Are Social Security numbers encrypted? Is data being stored behind firewalls? Additionally, does the school carry Cyber Liability insurance to protect against loss?

Caitlin-Morgan provides educational insurance and can help you provide a solution to your clients. Give Caitlin-Morgan a call at: 877.226.1027.

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Posted in: Educational Insurance