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Lawsuit claims University of Minnesota didn't do enough to prevent data breach

Two former employees, one of whom is also a former student, filed a lawsuit against the university and asked that the case be given class-action status.

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota (U of M) is facing a lawsuit following the revelation of a significant data breach.   

Just last week, the university announced that an "unauthorized party" claimed to have access to sensitive data from the computer systems, which school leadership allegedly learned about July 21. According to court documents, this party reportedly gained access to more than seven million Social Security Numbers from records dated between 1989 and 2021. 

The Cyber Express first reported on the breach, saying a dark web user posted in an online forum about the hack, claiming that they made the data available on the dark web with the goal of analyzing the effects of affirmative action following the Supreme Court decision

A university spokesperson told KARE 11 that once the claim was discovered an investigation was launched, law enforcement was contacted and state and federal regulators were notified. 

The lawsuit claims that the school didn't do enough to protect personal information and prevent the data breach. In addition to Social Security Numbers, court documents state that students, applicants and employees routinely share names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses with the University, data the plaintiffs say should have been protected. 

"As a direct and proximate result of UMN’s inadequate data security and the resulting data breach, Plaintiff and the Class have suffered, and will continue to suffer, ascertainable losses, economic damages, and other actual injury and harm," the lawsuit reads. 

The lawsuit was filed by two former employees, Geoff Dittberner and Mary Wint. Dittberner also completed his undergraduate degree at the university.  The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the risk of economic damages, expenses for monitoring financial accounts and securing identity theft protection, in addition to other damages. 

Dittberner and Wint are also asking the court to give the case class-action status, alleging that the number of potential plaintiffs who could join the lawsuit would push claims to more than $5 million. 

As of Aug. 29, there is no court date set. 

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