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Washington State University warns 1 million about stolen hard drive containing personal data

Published Jun 23rd, 2017 7:31PM EDT
Image: Reuters

Washington State University sent letters earlier this month to one million people warning that they could be at risk of identity theft after a hard drive was stolen over a month ago.

The university said in the June 9 letter that the hard drive belonged to its Social & Economic Sciences Research Center. The theft occured on April 21. The hard drive contained personal information such as names, Social Security numbers and personal health information, the Seattle Times reported Thursday.

“We have no indication that the information on the hard drive has been accessed or misused in any way. However, as a precaution, we are notifying you of this incident and offering you a complimentary one-year membership to Experian’s ProtectMayID Alert,” the university said.

Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communication at the school, told the paper that the hard drive contained data from 1998 to 2013 from school districts, community colleges and other customers. He added that SESRC contracts with state agencies to evaluate the quality of the data that is collected and that it would take a certain computer expertise to interpret the data.

“We take this incident very seriously. We are notifying impacted individuals so they can take steps to protect themselves and offering free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to those individuals whose personal information may have been accessed. We are also notifying the entities that provided SESRC with data that included personal information,” the letter said.

Weiler said the school hired a computer-forensics firm to determine what data has been backed up.