It looked like a thinly veiled sales pitch to some and raised more questions than it answered to others.
According to officials at Washington State University (WSU), “the University recently became aware of a security incident involving certain community members’ personal information.” This is in reference to a computer hard drive, used to back up data, which had been in an locked safe stolen from an Olympia storage locker in April.
According to a Seattle-Times article, “WSU doesn’t have any idea if the thieves were able to break into the safe, if they know what to do with the hard drive, or if they’re able to interpret the data, which is stored in a relational database that requires some expertise to unravel.”
Erring on the side of caution, WSU reportedly sent letters to approximately 1 million people warning of the data breach. And, according to the letter, the university is providing recipients with a 1-year subscription to free credit-monitoring and identity-theft protection services. The back side of the letter was dedicated to how to activate the identity-theft protection service for free as well as other steps that can be taken.
Some took to social media warning others of the letter, thinking it was a scam to get people to subscribe to the credit-monitoring and identity-theft protection services.
Others questioned why they were getting a letter when they had no ties to WSU. The answer is they were included in studies done for hire by WSU’s Social & Economic Sciences Research Center. The Seattle Times article explains, citing WSU Vice President for Marketing and Communication Phil Weiler, “The data includes names and a mix of personal information, including Social Security numbers for some of those affected. Some of it comes from school districts who track their students after graduation to find out if they’re going on to college, or getting jobs, Weiler said. The research center also has contracted with state job-training programs that track their clients to see if they were able to find employment.”
For anyone who believes they may be affected but has not received a letter by June 30th or anyone with questions about the data breach, the university has set up an assistance line at 866-523-9195 which is operating Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm.