A security lesson could be costly for WSU

A stolen hard drive contained information on 1.2 million people.
A stolen hard drive contained information on 1.2 million people.

A lost hard drive at a storage facility in Olympia could wind up costing Washington State University $5.26 million to settle a lawsuit.

The Washington State University Board of Regents last week authorized lawyers to negotiate up to that amount to settle a class-action lawsuit that came as a result of a burglar stealing a safe containing the hard drive. The hard drive contained sensitive information of about 1.2 million people, including their names and Social Security numbers.

Phil Weiler, WSU spokesman, says that any settlement will be covered by the university's insurance. A tentative settlement agreement has been reached, though the final payout could be less than the $5.26 million the Board of Regents authorized. The possible $5.26 million settlement is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars the university spent in response to the data breach that included a security firm and the mailing of letters to those who may have been impacted.

Weiler says the university is still unsure if whoever stole the hard drive from the storage facility has attempted to use the sensitive data. The hard drive was locked in a safe that was stolen from a locker in 2017, but it's unclear if the burglar was able to break into the safe.

"We haven't seen any evidence that anyone's data was compromised," Weiler says.

Police in Olympia have not been able to solve the case. The class-action lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court says the university should have protected the private information and failed to do so.

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