On June 9th, Washington State University emailed one million people about their stolen hard drive, warning that identity theft is a possibility.

The Email

Washington State University sent out an email on June 9th to a million people, warning them that a university hard drive with personal information on it had been stolen about a month ago and that identity theft is a possibility.

According to the email, the drive was from the Social and Economic Sciences’ Research Center and contained personal info including names, health information and social security numbers.

“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 email said.

“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,” he said

The university also set up a hotline to assist all those who had been affected: 866-523-9195. The line operates Monday-Friday from 8am till 6pm.

Additional Comments From Faculty

According to the communication vice president of the school, Phil Weiler, it contained data from all the way back to 1998 to 2013 from community colleges, school districts as well as other customers.

He added, however, that it would take a high level of computer expertise in order to interpret the data on the hard drive. He also mentioned that a computer-forensics company has been hired in order to see if any of the data was backed up on the school’s computers.

Many who received the email doubted that the university actually had their information and questioned the legitimacy of the letter. However, the email was signed at the bottom by Kirk Schulz, the university president: “As president of Washington State University, I deeply regret that this incident occurred and am truly sorry for any concern it may cause you.”

Many were also confused as the email pointed out that the personal information was obtained “from some survey participants,” when they didn’t recall participating in a survey. Weiler said that the word “survey” in the letter refers to a “social-sciences term,” and not the laymen definition of the word, meaning a personally administered survey.

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