Pearson Book Publishing Company Sued for Failing to Protect 1 Million Students Information from Hackers

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A book publishing company, Pearson has been sued for its inability to safeguard the personal information of students from hackers. According to the complaint filed, Pearson did not have enough measures in place to even detect the breach of data.

The sued book publishing company had no idea that their system had been compromised until the FBI informed them after four months of data breach. Ignoring the security of collected customer information can put them at risk of identity theft , and considering the fact that most of the victims are students makes it more difficult for them knowing their information are exposed to the public.

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In November 2018, Pearson was breached leaving personal identification information of 1 million students from 13,000 schools and universities exposed. It was estimated that the breach took place across 13 states. Hackers got an illegal access to the first and last names of students, email addresses, unique students identification number and date of birth. After the FBI notified them, Pearson hid this from the students until July 2018. The lawsuit follows the recent report of Equifax incurring about $700 million to settle data breach.

The defendant ‘s misconduct led to the data breach of the Personal identification information of the Plaintiff and class members, which made their sensitive information available for misuse. The book publishing company was also sued because they did not prioritize the privacy of its customers.

Allan Cunningham, the information-security officer for Washoe County School District in Nevada, revealed that about 114,000 students who were registered between 2001 and 2016 were affected by the reach. It was estimated that majority of them had their date of birth information accessed by the hackers. It was also published that there was no evidence that the compromised information were misused. They offered a free complimentary credit-monitoring service to all affected victims as a precautionary measure.

The school grades and assessments were not affected according to reports. Also, there was no breach of Social Security Numbers, credit card details or any financial information.
The lawsuit filed against the book publishing company also accuses them of being directly responsible for the data breach as they failed to put adequate security measures in place to protect the PII.

A commendation of the effort of the defendant to offer complimentary credit monitoring service was highlighted. However, they stated that this cannot rectify the full injury and consequences of the breach. This contributed to the reasons why the book publishing company was sued. The Plaintiff and the class members on behalf of all other affected individuals requested for an equitable reliefs to prevent future re-occurrence and to recover damages.

The lawsuit stated that educational institutions have been a target to cyber criminals due to the age of the victims and the sensitivity of their data. It stated they Children are usually targeted because they do not check their credit reports often. This gives hackers enough time to use the stolen information for whatever they want to do with them.

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According to Douglas Levin, president of EdTech Strategies, a security consulting firm for the education industry, the way Pearson placed personal identifiable information into the database while building an information system for school was questionable. He stated that it is always advisable to use unique student identifier that does not contain names, emails and birth date of students.

Data breach has hit an increasing rate in 2019 with many institutions including the health sector being added to the victim list day after day. The Capital One Financial Corp was recently attacked by hackers affecting about 106 million people. It is expected that vulnerable institutions would review their security systems and fix all loopholes to avoid breaches and to escape the cost that comes with it.

Source: wbbm News Radio

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