Some Missouri State students' Social Security numbers wind up on Google

MSU employee posted student information on unsecured server

Officials at Missouri State University notified over six thousand students that their social security numbers may have been compromised, after they were uploaded onto an unsecured server by an MSU employee and ended up on Google, according to a press release issued by the university Thursday.

The university was preparing lists of students per semester, which included their social security numbers, as part of the accreditation process with the College of Education. The lists were meant to be uploaded to a secure server and only shared with personnel from the College of Education.

The university has offered to pay for the consumer identity theft protection of the 6030 students who’s numbers were posted, which at $7 per student, will cost the university around $42 210 if the students take them up on the offer.

When reading this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar blunder I saw reported by the Richmond-Times Dispatch last week, where 2000 prospective students at Christopher Newport University in Virginia received false acceptance emails reading “Welcome to CNU!”. The slip was blamed on “human error” by CNU.

In early January, it was also reported by the Associated Press that officials at California State University issued apologies to around 500 students who were falsely notified that they had been disquafied from returning to university for the winter semester because their GPAs fell below enrolment standards. In this case, the mistake was caused by a coding error.

I realize these cases happened at American schools and don’t necessarily reflect on Canadian universities, but it might be a sign that some universities aren’t keeping on top of the technologies they’re using to distribute and track student information. When students’ private information or understanding of their enrolment status in university can be jeopardized by something as simple as the misstep of one university employee or a coding error, it can’t instill much faith in students that their university will keep their personal information safeguarded and might make them less willing to hand it over.

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