Posted On December 21, 2022 Consumer Privacy & Data Breaches
December 21, 2022 – After learning that an unauthorized party could access confidential student information stored in its computer network, Hope College filed notice of a data breach with the Attorney General of Montana on December 15, 2022.
According to the filing, an unauthorized party gained access to sensitive student information like first and last names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, student ID numbers, and driver’s license numbers. Once it was confirmed that there was a data leak, Hope College sent out notification letters to all individuals affected by the data security breach.
The data breach lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are actively investigating the Hope College data breach. If you have received a breach notification and are interested in learning about the risks of identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself, we are offering free consultations where we can discuss your legal options for receiving compensation from Hope College.
Hope College is a private Christian liberal arts college that offers programs for 91 majors, minors, and pre-professional programs. It also offers over 300 study-abroad programs. Originally founded in 1866 in Holland, MI, the college now has approximately 3400 students enrolled and employs over 586 people. It generates approximately $43 million in revenue annually.
According to its filing with the Attorney General of Montana, Hope College determined that an unauthorized party had breached its computer network on September 27, 2022. They did not reveal how they had come to that conclusion. Hope College then worked with a third-party cybersecurity company to investigate the attack to see the extent to which student and faculty information had been leaked.
After learning that the consumer data was, in fact, exposed to a third party, Hope College’s next step was to review the files and determine what information was made available, which they completed on November 8, 2022. The types of information exposed were first and last names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, student ID numbers, and driver’s license numbers. While not consistent with each individual, any or all of the information listed may have been leaked due to the attack.
On December 15, 2022, Hope College sent out letters to all individuals whose sensitive information had been compromised.
If you receive a notice of a data breach from Hope College, it means your personal information was included in the data breach. Your name, birth date, Social Security number, and driver’s license number are now in the hands of an unknown party. Hackers wouldn’t go through the trouble of a cyberattack if there weren’t something in it for them. They often sell the information stolen on the dark web to make money or use it to steal identities. Not knowing what might be done with your personal information, you don’t want to sit around and wait to find out.
We’ve compiled a list of things that you should do as soon as possible if your data has been leaked. This list is not comprehensive, and if your financial accounts or Social Security number has been leaked, you may want to take additional steps.
If your information has been leaked in a data breach, schools will send a letter informing those affected. Pertinent information on the attack is in these letters, like how your information was accessed, what the school is doing to protect your data in the future, and whether anyone else affected has been the victim of fraud or identity theft. Read the data breach letter carefully to get all of the information and use it to determine your next steps.
Once your information is stolen, hackers will move fast. If they wait too long, people have time to close their accounts. The information accessed from Hope College might not have been all of the information the hackers needed to commit crimes. If that’s the case, they will need time to acquire all of the information, which means it could be weeks or months until they use your information. Stay vigilant and keep checking your accounts for unauthorized activity.
Hope College is providing those affected by the data breach with a credit monitoring service free of charge. Credit monitoring alerts you of any suspicious activity on your accounts. They usually cost anywhere from $20 to $40 a month. Signing up with Hope College’s free service is an easy way to keep on top of your credit accounts. You don’t have to worry about whether a free credit monitoring service will affect your right to file a lawsuit against a company that was potentially negligent before the breach.
Unlike credit monitoring, credit freezes and fraud alerts are services provided free of charge by the major credit bureaus. A credit freeze stops companies from checking your credit without approval from you. While a credit freeze may seem extreme, the Identity Theft Resource Center reports that it is the most effective way to prevent fraud after your personal information has been leaked. A fraud alert informs companies checking your credit that someone may be attempting to use your information for fraudulent purposes.
The consumer privacy lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. help customers affected by data and security breaches pursue legal solutions by offering free consultations. By explaining your rights in clear, concise terms, we help you make an informed decision about your next steps. If you are a victim of the Hope College data breach, Console & Associates, P.C. will investigate at no charge to you and offer advice on how to proceed. If you decide to pursue a case, rest assured that we don’t get paid unless you do. If your claim is successful, legal fees are either paid out of the funds recovered or by the defendant. If your claim is not successful, you pay nothing.
Below is a copy of the initial data breach letter issued by Hope College (here is the actual notice sent to consumers):
We are writing to inform you of a data security incident experienced by Hope College (“Hope”) that may have involved your information as described below. While we have no evidence of attempted or actual misuse of your information as a result of this incident, out of an abundance of caution, we are providing you with information about the incident, our response, and steps you can take to help protect your information.
What Happened: On or around September 27, 2022, Hope discovered potential unauthorized access to our network. Upon discovery, we immediately began working with our IT team, and engaged third-party computer specialists to conduct a full forensic investigation. During the investigation, it was discovered that certain data, kept in the normal course of business, may have been subject to unauthorized access. Upon discovery, we immediately undertook a comprehensive and time-consuming review of our internal files and compiled a list of individuals potentially impacted. That review process was completed on November 8, 2022. Out of an abundance of caution, we are now notifying individuals whose information was potentially impacted by the incident.
What Information Was Involved: The information believed to potentially be at risk includes your first and last name, in combination with your [Redacted]
What We Are Doing: Upon discovery, we immediately engaged third-party forensic specialists to investigate this matter. Out of an abundance of caution, we have arranged the ability to activate, at no cost to you, an online credit monitoring service for [Redacted] months provided by Cyberscout. Due to privacy laws, we cannot activate these services for you directly. Additional information regarding how to activate the complimentary credit monitoring service is enclosed. We have also provided additional information about steps you can take to help protect yourself against fraud and identity theft.
What You Can Do: We recommend that you remain vigilant in regularly reviewing and monitoring all of your account statements and credit history to guard against any unauthorized transactions or activity. If you discover any suspicious or unusual activity on your accounts, please promptly contact your financial institution or company, if applicable. Additionally, you can enroll to receive the complimentary credit monitoring service we are making available to you. You can also review the enclosed “Steps You Can Take to Help Protect Your Information” for additional resources.
For More Information: Should you have additional questions or concerns regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us at 1-833-540-0798, between the hours of 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern time, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.
We take the privacy and security of the information in our care seriously, and sincerely regret any worry or inconvenience this incident may cause you and your family.