Data Breach Alert: North Orange County Community College District | Console and Associates, P.C. | #itsecurity | #infosec

Recently, North Orange County Community College District (“NOCCCD”) confirmed that the District experienced a data breach stemming from unauthorized access to its computer system. As a result, the personal and sensitive information of students and employees was compromised.

If you received a data breach notification, it is essential you understand what is at risk. The data breach lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are actively investigating the North Orange County Community College District data breach on behalf of people whose information was exposed. As a part of this investigation, we are providing free consultations to anyone affected by the breach who is interested in learning more about the risks of identity theft, what they can do to protect themselves, and what their legal options may be to obtain compensation from North Orange County Community College District.

Last year, 1,862 data breaches affected more than 189 million people. On average, victims of identity theft spend 200 hours and over $1,300 recovering their identity. Many victims also suffer emotional distress, credit damage, and may even end up with a criminal record. Taking immediate action is the best way to prevent the worst consequences of a data breach.

What We Know So Far About the North Orange County Community College District Data Breach

According to an official filing by the District, on January 10, 2022, NOCCCD learned of suspicious activity on both two of the District’s colleges networks. Those colleges were Cypress College and Fullerton College. In response, the District launched an investigation to learn more about the incident, and to determine if any employee or student information was compromised as a result. The investigation confirmed that between December 7, 2021 and January 10, 2022, files containing sensitive employee and student data may have been accessed or removed from the District’s network.

Upon learning of the extent of the security breach, North Orange County Community College District then reviewed the affected files to determine what information was compromised. This review is still ongoing; however, the District confirmed that it is already aware that some employee and student information was present in the affected files.

On March 25, 2022, North Orange County Community College District began sending out data breach notification letters to all individuals whose information was compromised as a result of the recent data security incident. The District noted that it will send additional letters if it determines other parties were impacted by the recent data breach.

North Orange County Community College District is an education system serving more than one million residents across more than a dozen cities. Each year, more than 78,000 students enroll between the District’s three campuses, Cypress College, Fullerton College, and North Orange Continuing Education. NOCCCD employs more than 2,795 people across all facilities.

More About the Causes and Risks of Data Breaches

Often, data breaches are the result of a hacker gaining unauthorized access to an organization’s computer systems with the intention of obtaining sensitive consumer information. While no one can know the reason why a hacker targeted NOCCCD, it is common for hackers and other criminals to identify those companies believed to have weak data security systems or vulnerabilities in their networks.

Once a cybercriminal gains access to a computer network, they can then access and remove any data stored on the compromised servers. While in most cases an organization experiencing a data breach can identify which files were accessible, there may be no way for it to tell which files the hacker actually accessed or whether they removed any data.

While the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach does not necessarily mean it will be used for criminal purposes, being the victim of a data breach puts your sensitive data in the hands of an unauthorized person. As a result, you are at an increased risk of identity theft and other frauds, and criminal use of your information is a possibility that should not be ignored.

Given this reality, individuals who receive a North Orange County Community College District data breach notification should take the situation seriously and remain vigilant in checking for any signs of unauthorized activity. Organizations like NOCCCD are responsible for protecting the consumer data in their possession. If evidence emerges that NOCCCD failed to adequately protect your sensitive information, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a data breach lawsuit.

What Are Consumers’ Remedies in the Wake of the NOCCCD Data Breach?

When students and employees trusted NOCCCD with their personal information, they assumed that the organization would take their privacy concerns seriously. And it goes without saying that people would think twice before giving any organization access to their information if they knew it wasn’t going to be secure. Thus, data breaches such as this one raise questions about the adequacy of a District’s data security system.

When a business, government entity, non-profit organization, school, or any other organization accepts and stores consumer data, it also accepts a legal obligation to ensure this information remains private. The United States data breach laws allow consumers to pursue civil data breach claims against organizations that fail to protect their information.

Of course, given the recency of the North Orange County Community College District data breach, the investigation into the incident is still in its early stages. And, as of right now, there is not yet any evidence suggesting NOCCCD is legally responsible for the breach. However, that could change as additional information about the breach and its causes is revealed.

If you have questions about your ability to bring a data breach class action lawsuit against North Orange County Community College District, reach out to a data breach attorney as soon as possible.

What Should You Do if You Receive a North Orange County Community College District Data Breach Notification?

If North Orange County Community College District sends you a data breach notification letter, you are among those whose information was compromised in the recent breach. While this isn’t a time to panic, the situation warrants your attention. Below are a few important steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft and other fraudulent activity:

  1. Identify What Information Was Compromised: The first thing to do after learning of a data breach is to carefully review the data breach letter sent. The letter will tell you what information of yours was accessible to the unauthorized party. Be sure to make a copy of the letter and keep it for your records. If you have trouble understanding the letter or what steps you can take to protect yourself, a data breach lawyer can help.

  2. Limit Future Access to Your Accounts: Once you determine what information of yours was affected by the breach, the safest play is to assume that the hacker orchestrating the attack stole your data. While this may not be the case, it’s better to be safe than sorry. To prevent future access to your accounts, you should change all passwords and security questions for any online account. This includes online banking accounts, credit card accounts, online shopping accounts, and any other account containing your personal information. You should also consider changing your social media account passwords and setting up multi-factor authentication where it is available.

  3. Protect Your Credit and Your Financial Accounts: After a data breach, companies often provide affected parties with free credit monitoring services. Signing up for the free credit monitoring offers some significant protections and doesn’t impact any of your rights to pursue a data breach lawsuit against the organization if it turns out they were legally responsible for the breach. You should contact a credit bureau to request a copy of your credit report—even if you do not notice any signs of fraud or unauthorized activity. Adding a fraud alert to your account will provide you with additional protection.

  4. Consider Implementing a Credit Freeze: A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report. Credit freezes are free and stay in effect until you remove them. Once a credit freeze is in place, you can temporarily lift the freeze if you need to apply for any type of credit. While placing a credit freeze on your accounts may seem like overkill, given the risks involved, it’s justified. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (“ITRC”), placing a credit freeze on your account is the “single most effective way to prevent a new credit/financial account from being opened.” However, just 3% of data breach victims place a freeze on their accounts.

  5. Regularly Monitor Your Credit Report and Financial Accounts: Protecting yourself in the wake of a data breach requires an ongoing effort on your part. You should regularly check your credit report and all financial account statements, looking for any signs of unauthorized activity or fraud. You should also call your banks and credit card companies to report the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach.

Below is a copy of the initial data breach letter issued by North Orange County Community College District:

Dear [Consumer],

North Orange County Community College District (“NOCCCD”) is writing to make you aware of an incident that may affect the privacy of some of your personal information. While we are unaware of any actual misuse of your information, safeguarding information is among NOCCCD’s highest priorities, and this letter provides details of the incident, our response to it, and resources available to you right now to help protect your personal information, should you feel it is appropriate to do so.

What Happened? On January 10, 2022, NOCCCD became aware of suspicious activity on both Cypress College’s and Fullerton College’s networks. We began investigating the activity with the assistance of outside computer forensic specialists to determine the nature and scope of the incident. We have learned there was unauthorized access to certain systems between approximately December 7, 2021 and January 10, 2022, and that files containing sensitive information may have been taken/or viewed during that time by an unauthorized individual.

What Information Was Involved? Our investigation determined the following types of your information may have been impacted by this incident: name and <>.

What We Are Doing. Information security is among NOCCCD’s highest priorities, and we have strict security measures in place to protect information in our care. Upon becoming aware of this incident, we immediately took steps to confirm the security of our systems, including the deployment of an advanced threat protection and monitoring tool. Additionally, we have implemented cybersecurity measures, such as multi-factor authentication, to further protect against similar incidents moving forward. We reported this incident to law enforcement and are cooperating with their investigation. We are notifying impacted individuals, including you, so that you may take steps to best protect your information, should you feel it is appropriate to do so. We are also reporting to regulatory authorities and the major credit reporting agencies, as required.

As an added precaution, we are offering you immediate access to credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for <<12/24>> months at no cost to you, through IDX. You can find information on how to enroll in these services in the below “Steps You Can Take to Help Protect Your Personal Information.” We encourage you to enroll in these services as we are not able to do so on your behalf.

What You Can Do. We encourage you to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud by reviewing your account statements and monitoring your free credit reports for suspicious activity and to detect errors. Please also review the information contained in the enclosed “Steps You Can Take to Protect Help Your Personal Information.”

For More Information. We understand that you may have questions about this incident that are not addressed in this letter. If you have additional questions, please call 1-833-783-1440 between the hours of 6 am to 6 pm PT Monday through Friday. We take this incident very seriously and sincerely regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause you.

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