Cuesta College reports data breach by employee

A bird's-eye view of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
A bird's-eye view of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.

Cuesta College employees were notified this week of a database breach by a community college employee who reportedly accessed a database and sent information including employee names, addresses and Social Security numbers to a private email account without authorization.

Cuesta College President Gil Stork sent an email to college employees Thursday evening to notify them of the incident.

He wrote that Cuesta employees should receive a letter in a day or two from Melissa Richerson, executive director of human resources/labor relations, with more information about what employees can do to protect their information.

“There is no indication that your specific information was targeted,” Stork wrote in the email. “Additionally, the (community college) district is not aware whether that information was shared with any third parties, nor is the district aware of any intent to use your information for any unlawful purpose.

“Nevertheless, we strongly encourage you to take measures to help prevent and detect any misuse of your information.”

In the email, Stork said that on May 31, a college employee accessed the district’s employee database and sent information from there to the employee’s personal email. Besides Social Security numbers, the information includes home addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.

In a phone interview Friday, Stork said college administrators learned of the incident late Monday or early Tuesday and reported the offense to the California Attorney General's Office and San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.

Stork declined to disclose any information about the employee, including where the person worked. He said the individual went on medical leave a few weeks ago, before the incident occurred, and remains on medical leave.

Stork said the database can be accessed on campus computers, but some employees can also access it remotely so they can work at home if needed.

“This person has a clearance to use the databases in the course of their job, but this person went beyond their authorization,” he said.

Stork said he’s receiving updates on the incident from the Cuesta College Police Department and has not been made aware of any arrests related to the incident.

County Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said Cuesta College police are leading the investigation into the incident and requested assistance from the District Attorney’s Office.

Cuesta College police could not be reached for comment Friday.