Massive Data Breach At Stanford Exposes University’s Dishonesty

Jon Levin, Dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, issued a statement on Nov. 17 acknowledging a recent data breach which exposed 14 terabytes of confidential student data via financial aid applications.

The information was found by Adam Allcock, a current MBA student at Stanford, in February of this year on a shared network that was directly accessible students, staff, and faculty members alike at the business school.

After spending 1,500 hours analyzing data and compiling an 88-page report, Allcock notified the director of financial aid Jack Edwards of the breach and turned in his report, on Feb. 23, according to Poets & Quants, a website that covers business school news.

“The GSB secretly ranks students as to how valuable (or replaceable) they were seen, and awarded financial aid on that basis.” Said Allcock. “Not only has the GSB also been systematically discriminating by gender, international status and more while lying to their faces for the last 10 to ~25 years.”

The data—which contained 5,120 financial aid applications from 2,288 students, spanning a 7-year-period from 2008 to 2015— also contained the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and salary information for almost 10,000 non-teaching university employees through a snapshot that was taken in August 2008.

It wasn’t until 8 months after Allcock reported the breach in February that the Dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, Jon Levin, became aware of the leak.

Unfortunately, Allcock requested that the report wasn’t shared publicly due to the fact that he returned the data back to the school, but he did address a glaring issue with the financial aid department at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

“The GSB secretly ranks students as to how valuable (or replaceable) they were seen, and awarded financial aid on that basis.” Said Allcock. “Not only has the GSB also been systematically discriminating by gender, international status and more while lying to their faces for the last 10 to ~25 years.”

This is a far cry from Stanford’s statement that financial aid is awarded to individuals based on their needs and instead shows a program that ranks students based on their value to the university and attempts to entice top students with financial backgrounds so that the university can continue to have recognition as one of the top MBA programs on the planet.

“All fellowships are need-based” claims the school’s website.

An additional assurance, that the GSB “does not offer merit-based scholarships.” was removed by an update that occurred on Dec. 1.

Faced with the fact that irresponsible file management led to the exposure of sensitive personal information, and dishonest financial aid practices, Stanford’s Dean of the Graduate School of Business issued a statement on Nov. 17 of this year.

“The fact that Stanford GSB confidential data was stored improperly and accessible to faculty, staff, and students is a serious problem.” Stated Levin. “…the student’s report raises an issue we intend to address.”

“Stanford GSB admits students on a need-blind basis, and admitted students may apply for financial aid. …In addition, the school has offered additional fellowship awards to candidates whose biographies make them particularly compelling and competitive in trying to attract a diverse class.”

“I believe that a preferable approach, going forward, is to be significantly more transparent about the principles and objectives being applied in making financial aid awards…” wrote Levin. “…we are still gathering information on both issues I have described. Although it is likely to take some time to resolve them.”

Ranga Jayaraman, Chief Digital Officer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business for the last 6 years, announced his resignation via e-mail as of Dec. 1.

Feature Photo: Credit to Manuel from Freiburg, Germany on Pexels.com