24.5 Million School Records Leaked From Data Breaches

Nearly 25 million private school records have been found online following a series of data breaches spanning back to 2005, according to tech researchers. 

Comparitech has published the findings of their research that found 24.5 million school records online from 1,327 data breaches since 2005. 

Researchers found that the trend was accelerating, with public schools and institutions most commonly targeted by hackers. According to the report, 77.7% of data breaches hit a public school. Of these attacks, 67.7% impacted colleges. 

 The reporters noted that private colleges were a particular target for hackers, amounting to 90.9% of all breaches launched at private institutions. 

The team at Comparitech used data supplied by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) and found that the overwhelming majority of incidents – 45.9% to be exact – were the result of hackers breaching their networks. 

Unintentional disclosures by the institution accounted for 341, or 25.7% of data breaches, whereby either students or teachers had attached personally identifiable information.

Theft, or loss of devices like USB drives, phones and laptops were responsible for 183, or 13.8% of data breaches, while physical data not being destroyed resulted in 77, or 5.8% of hacks. Inside actors resulted in 70, or 5.3% of data breaches, and finally the theft of stationary devices like desktop computers resulted in 52 data breaches. 

Major findings of the report include the fact that California is a favourite target for hackers overall, accounting for 157 – 11.8% – of the overall 1,328 studied breaches. New York trailed behind with 89, while Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Florida rounded out the top spots with 79, 60 and 58 respectively. 

“There doesn’t appear to be any kind of trend in the breach numbers for K-12 schools or colleges, nor does there seem to be a pattern with college records affected…. However, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of school records affected,” researchers wrote. 

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The authors of the report noted that “some of these numbers are not too surprising. California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Ohio are among the top 10 largest US states and have large numbers of students and education institutions… it stands to reason that this would also result in a larger number of data breaches.” 

“However, if we change the figures to look at the number of records affected by US states, the picture changes slightly,” they explained. 

“California remains a hotspot, yet Arizona becomes one of the worst-hit states with only slightly fewer people affected in its breaches than California – 2.83 million compared to 2.88 million.” 

In terms of the total number of breaches to its systems, Texas took out the top spot with 40 separate data breaches, with California and Illinois rounding out the top three with 37 and 29 breaches a piece. 

Top Five Education Data Breaches

  • Maricopa County Community College – 2.49 million records in 2013
  • Harvard Computer Society – 1.4 million records in 2017
  • Georgia Tech – 1.27 million records in 2019
  • Washington State University – 1.12 million records in 2017
  • University of California at Los Angeles – 800,000 records in 2006

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