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MDE: Tupelo schools among those affected by Questar Assessment breach

The Mississippi Education Department’s (MDE) assessment vendor, Questar Assessment, Inc., reported today that 663 students in the Tupelo and Jefferson County school districts were affected by the data breach the company discovered last week.

Posted: Jan 22, 2018 5:08 PM

JACKSON, Miss (Press Release) – The Mississippi Education Department’s (MDE) assessment vendor, Questar Assessment, Inc., reported today that 663 students in the Tupelo and Jefferson County school districts were affected by the data breach the company discovered last week. This represents a fraction (0.26%) of the to 258,501 computer-based test takers in spring and fall 2017. Questar had originally reported the breach related to tests administered in 2016.

Questar’s preliminary analysis found that an unauthorized user viewed student assessment records between December 31, 2017, and January 1, 2018, from Tupelo Middle School, Tupelo High School and Jefferson Junior High School. The unauthorized viewer gained access to student names, Mississippi student identification numbers, grade levels, teacher names and test results. One student record viewed contained demographic data.

Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, spoke personally to Questar President Steve Lazer to demand that Questar take immediate action to ensure no further data breaches occur. Lazer assured Wright that Questar is acting swiftly to ensure Mississippi’s data remains safe and secure.

“The MDE takes very seriously the confidentiality of student information, and any breach of our records will not be tolerated,” Wright said. “Even though this incident is isolated to a fraction of students, any type of breach is unacceptable, and we are holding Questar accountable to ensure this never happens again.”

Following the discovery of a similar breach in New York, Questar has closed the accounts of all former employees and has hired a third-party audit firm to perform a security audit of its systems.  

The MDE is requiring Questar take immediate action including:

  • Use a third-party audit firm to conduct a security audit of Questar’s systems and security protocols, policies and procedures;
  • Submit a written corrective action plan to the MDE by January 29, 2018, detailing the actions Questar has taken and will take to ensure that this does not occur again in the future. 
  • Force password resets;

The MDE does not share student addresses and social security numbers with Questar; and therefore, this information was not accessible.

Questar first notified the MDE about the breach on the afternoon of January 18, 2018. On January 19, 2018, Questar provided additional information, and earlier today, Questar provided the MDE with the names of the affected students and schools.

The MDE has notified the superintendents of the affected districts and will issue a letter to every student who was affected. The breakdown of schools and students affected is as follows:

School

District

# of Students Affected

Tupelo Middle School

Tupelo School District

490

Tupelo High School

Tupelo School District

72

Jefferson County Junior High School

Jefferson County School District

101

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37542

Reported Deaths: 1272
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds310258
DeSoto205020
Madison156039
Jones125450
Harrison123116
Rankin117320
Forrest107143
Neshoba105077
Lauderdale97581
Scott83715
Jackson80919
Washington78214
Copiah69016
Leake65120
Lee64023
Grenada63412
Oktibbeha63228
Lamar6127
Warren61222
Holmes60842
Wayne57519
Yazoo5747
Leflore56956
Lowndes55317
Lincoln54136
Pike52821
Lafayette5274
Sunflower5269
Monroe47239
Panola4696
Covington4665
Simpson4613
Bolivar42818
Tate41813
Attala39024
Pontotoc3906
Adams38820
Newton37910
Marion35612
Claiborne31811
Pearl River31732
Marshall3074
Winston30513
Chickasaw30419
Jasper2956
Walthall2899
Noxubee2819
Clay26811
Smith26112
Union25811
Coahoma2376
Clarke23425
Lawrence2182
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie2064
Montgomery1903
Carroll18911
Kemper18414
Humphreys17810
Calhoun1765
Hancock15813
Itawamba1528
Tippah15111
Jefferson1353
Webster13511
George1313
Jefferson Davis1294
Prentiss1294
Tunica1273
Amite1183
Greene11810
Alcorn1132
Tishomingo1111
Quitman1041
Wilkinson1049
Perry954
Stone802
Choctaw764
Franklin582
Sharkey520
Benton490
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7186174
Mobile5206147
Montgomery4690114
Tuscaloosa277754
Madison27299
Marshall209012
Shelby182026
Lee171637
Morgan14296
Baldwin139611
Walker112635
DeKalb11187
Etowah110414
Elmore110124
Dallas102810
Franklin96016
Unassigned81428
Russell7340
Autauga73317
Chambers69332
Limestone6914
Cullman6896
Houston6587
Butler65631
St. Clair6463
Tallapoosa64669
Lauderdale6337
Colbert5826
Calhoun5776
Escambia5228
Lowndes49723
Pike4915
Jackson4722
Coffee4534
Covington43913
Talladega4337
Dale4142
Barbour4133
Bullock38010
Hale36723
Marengo36411
Chilton3563
Blount3441
Marion33214
Clarke3296
Wilcox3258
Winston3157
Sumter30413
Pickens2806
Randolph27910
Monroe2773
Perry2632
Conecuh2478
Bibb2322
Macon2279
Choctaw22112
Greene2019
Henry1613
Washington1588
Lawrence1510
Crenshaw1403
Cherokee1357
Geneva1060
Lamar951
Clay922
Fayette902
Coosa691
Cleburne531
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