Data breach affects 400,000 MSU affiliates

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Some criminals walk the streets and others hide behind the internet. These criminals breach security systems in an attempt to damage or steal information.

There have been data breaches around the nation corrupting companies and institutions, putting the livelihoods of individuals at risk.

Target and Home Depot were breached in 2014 and faced expenses totaling over $33 million.

According to Home Depot Inc., 56 million people’s financial and card information was compromised during the attack which made it even bigger than the attack at the Target Corporation.

Michigan State University become the victim of a data breach on Nov. 13 that affected 400,000 people who are or who have either been a faculty member or student.

“Institutions like MSU are always the target of cyber attacks. We have about several hundred thousand attempted attacks every month,” MSU spokesman Jason Cody said.

Cody said any organization that has sensitive data is always going to be a potential target.

“That’s the reality of IT at large institutions,” he said.

MSU has been working to make sure that every victim is at least notified about the recent attack.

The university has tried to contact all victims approached through post office mail and emails. Cody has also provided information through news media.

“I have done about 50 or 60 media interviews. A lot of news coverage makes people more aware,” he said.

MSU alumni and Birmingham Public Schools head of English secondary education guidance department Lezah Phillips said the only reason she found out about the breach is because she happened to be watching the news.

“I didn’t get an email, a phone call, or a piece of mail,” she said.

Cody said he cannot guarantee that everyone received a letter.

“We tried to get good addresses for 400,000 people and that is a laborious task. We found them all however. Is it feasible that the address we had was an old address? We’re doing everything we can to contact everyone,” he said.

Phillips said that the news report she saw about the identity theft protection bothered her because it just said they were offering it.

“They put it out there but, to me it wasn’t made easy. Now I have to go and try to research how I can get this (identity theft insurance) from MSU,” she said.

After hearing this alum’s frustration, Cody said, “I can understand she may be frustrated but I can completely disagree. We sent emails letters, we have done social media, all anyone has to do is go to It’s right there on our homepage, click the link, then data breach information. It should explain exactly what you need to do. You can call the 800 number and it will be all set,”  he said.


(Data Breach link on the website)

Cody said MSU officials have received positive and negative feedback about the situation. They have heard from people who are upset, concerned and anxious.

“We understand that your personal identification info has been compromised and we know that is going to cause frustration and anger for some people,” he said.

Although identity theft insurance is offered some people are still worried and others are not worried at all.

After taking a poll including 20 students on Michigan State University’s campus these were the results of how worried some are you about the recent MSU data breach affecting your livelihood?

Out of 20 total students six were not worried, eight were slightly worried and four were very worried as presented in the pie chart above.

“I am concerned, but no more so than any of the other data breaches that has happened against the major businesses in the past few years,” said MSU criminal justice professor Tom Holt, who specializes in cyber crime.  said.

Holt, said  there is no 100 percent  secure system.

“Every organization or institution has the potential to be targeted, it’s just a question of how easily it’s performed and how interested the specific criminal is in gaining access to that target,” he said.

Holt says it’s good that no financial information was acquired from the files because it minimizes the likelihood that someone will try to sell it on the market.

He understands that MSU has a secure infrastructure and intrusion detection system, but still says there is no anti-virus for the human mind.

Some are not worried, but will still take precaution to the situation.

“I’m not too worried, but I am keeping an extra eye on things,” sophomore developer for general motors Joe Dinka said.

Dinka was a former computer science major at MSU. He believes the “dark hackers” found one vulnerability in the system that they were trying to breach and were able to get through to it.

“Dark hackers do this all the time. People are always attempting data breaches and they usually have some formal knowledge of the way some universities have their systems set up,” he said.

Moving forward, MSU is containing an IT security overhaul to  make sure the university’s’ systems are as robust as they can be.

“This is to make sure these sorts of things don’t happen again,” Cody said.

Dinka said  two departments should come together to eradicate this issue.

“I feel like law enforcement and IT have to work together when it comes the legal issues and they also have to contact IT experts to trace people they should investigate,” he said.

According to Cody, the MSU police and computer forensics team are working with the federal law to further investigate this breach.

However, the MSU police will not be able to make any remarks at this moment.

“Right now it’s an open investigation and I cannot comment on it,” MSU police Capt. Doug Monette said.



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