Data Security

Data on 3.3 Million Student Loan Borrowers Apparently Safe

Investigators in Minnesota have recovered two stolen safes that contained CDs and floppy discs with personal information on 3.3 million federal student loan borrowers. The safes disappeared in March 2010 from the headquarters of Educational Credit Management Corp., which guarantees the student loans.

Investigators said the safes were initially found in Minneapolis within 48 hours of a burglary and then stored in the Minneapolis Police evidence room. However, it was only recently that investigators connected the goods with the data theft.

According to the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force and the Minneapolis Police Department, the personal data on the digital media didn't appear to have been compromised, even though the safes had been opened. The CDs and floppy discs--about 650--containing the data were still in their original packaging and were found in the vicinity of the safes.

The investigators have identified one suspect, who was taken into custody on an unrelated matter. According to the police, the suspect wasn't a current or former employee of ECMC. Investigators say there may be additional suspects.

When analysis of the evidence is completed, the United States Department of Education Office of Inspector General will review the media as a precaution to determine whether the information on the CDs and floppy discs was compromised.

In a public statement, company Group President and CEO Richard Boyle expressed his gratitude to the task force, police department, FBI, and Office of Inspector General for "bringing about this positive outcome."

He added, "We remain vigilant to the needs and concerns of our borrowers, and continue to encourage borrowers who were notified by us of this incident to take advantage of the free credit monitoring and fraud protection package we are providing them through Experian.... All of us at ECMC are delighted by this news and hope that it provides some comfort to affected borrowers."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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