Ron Isaac’s Commentary: Brooklyn Tech Students Uncover DOE’s Data Breach

Aug 17, 2021 by

With the Delta variant getting us down, let’s still try to count our blessings, among them that the Department of Education is not carrying the nuclear codes suitcase. Such a data breach would be even worse than the one that the DOE didn’t notice, which brilliant and responsible Brooklyn Tech High School students brought to their attention, according to Chalkbeat. 

It blew up in the DOE’s faces, but at least it wasn’t the end of the world. 

This security compromise and dangerous invasion of privacy was discovered by accident last January on the DOE’s shared Google Drive. This official dereliction affected several thousand students and around 100 staffers, including the release of teachers’ social security numbers, and the academic records and home addresses of students.

For their response, the students deserve the Key to the City. They instantly alerted the school administration and explained not only what occurred but how to deal with it to minimize damage and prevent repetition. 

They assumed that their notification would result in immediate action. Two months later, additional confidential information was still being spilled, such as salary information, phone  numbers and students’ unique OSIS numbers.

Although not chronologically the adults in the building, the students, leap-frogging the indolent chain of command, e-mailed the DOE about the situation that was “escalating by the hour”.  They offered their expert advice, clearly not available in-house at Tweed, on the cause and cure of the problem.  They wanted to forestall a leak from becoming a gush.

The DOE replied fast and was appreciative. They would fix it. But a tech-savvy students claim that further leaks remain possible.

They DOE gave an obligatory statement about how they value and safeguard sensitive information, but proclaiming it does not necessarily make it so. They would not commit to whether they plan to use Google Drive in the future.

Perhaps that piece of intelligence is confidential.

It’s said to be “better to  light a candle than curse the darkness”. Many unflattering epithets are already on queue in the DOE-dedicated  hopper, so let’s put this one on hold. 

But we certainly should light a blazing candle of honor to those Brooklyn Tech students whose initiative showed such splendid judgement and civic virtue.
Ron Isaac

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