Sloppy school district auctions PCs with student data

Sold at auction, computers contained student data spreadsheet easily recovered with basic undelete software. State senator intervenes and threatens class-action lawsuit.

In another example of how schools fail to take extra precautions to avoid security breaches, a Greenville, NC, school has auctioned off old school computers which contained the Social Security numbers of more than 59,000 Greenville County students, reports The Greenville News.

The school is in negotiation with the owners of a company called the WH Group who bought the used computers. "The issue is now with our legal counsel," district spokesman Oby Lyles said in an email to The Greenville News.

Sen. David Thomas who is working on the negotiations, said the an independent computer expert would document everything on the computer. "When they begin looking at what's in the computer, the computer expert will be there," he said.

The computer had a spreadsheet that contained the names, social-security numbers and addresses of students from an unspecified year. The file were zipped but required no special software or knowledge to open, Thomas said.

That information had been deleted but was easily retrieved using a standard undelete program, he said.

Thomas, an attorney, threatened a class-action lawsuit against the district over the issue, if the district doesn't send letters to all students warning them that their private information may have been compromised and take other measures to ensure no more security breaches occur.

"We're not trying to throw rocks at anybody," he said. "Just since there is a security breach, the victims of the breach, in this case the students, need to be specifically informed."