Md. school system refers data breach victims to free service from private firm

WASHINGTON — After up to 1,000 former students were affected by a data breach, the school system in Frederick County, Maryland, linked families with a firm that performs risk mitigation.

Families are being referred to Kroll Associates, where they can get services for 12 months at no cost.

Erik Rasmussen, cyber practice leader with Kroll, said he couldn’t comment on any specific case, but explained that schools are finding that they have to safeguard student information with the same degree of diligence that a Fortune 500 company would.

Rasmussen says the rules for safeguarding personal information are the same for private firms as they are for public schools.

“School districts more and more should consider the idea of hiring and funding a chief information security officer,” he said. “That also allows the schools to focus on learning and let that individual focus on the security risks that may be inherent in some of the data that’s out there.”

The key to preventing data breaches is controlling what is released, and Rasmussen says that starts with you. The first rule: Challenge anyone who says they need your Social Security number to complete a transaction.

“I remember when I was a kid, Blockbuster video wanted your social security number and there’s absolutely no reason why they needed that,” he said.

Next, people should check their banking records frequently and notify their bank about any irregular activity. Parents will want to oversee their children’s records and ask school officials how they check for any possible breaches of student data.

Lastly, Rasmussen urges parents to keep up-to-date with the news: Learning what sorts of strategies cyber-crooks use can help consumers identify red flags and escape falling victim to a scam.

Rasmussen says banks and federal agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, provide a variety of resources on cyber safety.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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