Iron Mountain loses student data

Extracted from
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Boston-based Iron Mountain, which was hired to store and safeguard Louisiana scholarship and college savings account data lost a decade of backup records — including bank account numbers and student and parent Social Security numbers — during a move, officials say.

“We certainly don’t want to create any panic. But people should be aware and take the necessary steps,” said Melanie Amrhein, executive director of the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance. “This is backup data off of a mainframe that contains sensitive personal information.”

The single case lost Sept. 19 held backup data for every Louisiana application for federal student aid from 1998 through Sept. 13 of this year, Amrhein said today.

It also included applications during that period for the state’s TOPS scholarship program and information about START Saving Program accounts, including account numbers.

The financial aid office would not say how many records were involved or what format they were in.

Amrhein said the backup records were lost during a move from Iron Mountain’s Port Allen storage building to Baton Rouge.

The case was lost because a driver failed to follow company procedures when loading it onto his vehicle, according to a statement e-mailed today by Laura Sudnik, spokeswoman for Iron Mountain Inc. The driver has been fired.

“Our entire business is built around high security and reliability and we regret that this employee error took place,” it said.

Special equipment and software and “sophisticated computer skills” would be needed to get into the compressed records, according to a notice posted on the Internet by the student aid office.

Iron Mountain said it was “highly unlikely that any of the information contained on the back-up media can be viewed or used in any way.”

The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating, spokeswoman Kris Wartelle said.

The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance waited until this week to publicly disclose the loss to give the company time to find the data if it had just been misplaced, Amrhein said.

Earlier this year, about 150,000 student names and Social Security numbers were breached online through a separate Louisiana Board of Regents mistake. More than 60 college-related records breaches have occurred nationwide this year, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. (AP)

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