District taking precautions in response to theft of employee computer

The Niskayuna Central School District is taking precautions and contacting parents following the theft of a bag with a laptop computer and some student reports from an employee’s locked car.

The theft occurred in Virginia in mid-April when a window of the car was smashed and the bag was removed. The computer was password-protected. It contained some student records and personally identifiable information pertaining to students, including name, address and date of birth. There were also five individual student paper reports in the bag.

Based on the district’s consultations with a company called CyberScout, which specializes in identity theft education and resolution, officials are confident that the risk of identity theft or fraud is very low in this situation. There is no evidence to suggest that personal information was targeted in this theft or that any student’s personal information has been compromised or misused in any manner.

The district has sent letters to the families of approximately 950 students whose information was on the computer or may have been on it, including some former students.

In this letter, the district outlined precautions that parents can take to monitor the credit reports for their children for identity theft or fraud. However, the district also told families that it believes the risk is very low in this case, based on what it has learned from CyberScout.

The risk is generally high when someone’s name is disclosed in combination with private information such as a Social Security number, driver’s license number or financial account information. Based on the district”s review, this information was not stored on the stolen computer and therefore, there the risk would be minimal even if information on the computer was accessed.

The district is reviewing its data security practices and systems. Extensive protocols and mechanisms are in place for the data that exists on district systems. Officials are exploring policies and practices that would enhance security related to individual computers and file storage.

“We regret this unfortunate situation,” Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said. “While there is nothing that suggests that any individual information was targeted or misused, we are taking all the precautions we can and providing families with informational resources. We take our responsibility to protect student information very seriously, and will make any improvements in this area that we can.”