Security researcher Chris Vickery has discovered a Schoolzilla AWS misconfiguration that resulted in the records of 1.3 million students being accidentally left unprotected.
Schoolzilla is a student warehouse platform used by K12 schools to track and analyze student data. While data on the platform were protected and access by unauthorized individuals was not possible, that was not the case for a backup file on the platform.
Vickery had been conducting scans to identify unprotected Amazon Web Services installations when he noticed a number of unsecured buckets on the Tableau data visualization platform. Further investigation revealed an unprotected ‘sz tableau’ bucket named sz-backups, which was a data repository for backups of the Schoolzilla database.
The Amazon S3 bucket had been accidentally configured to allow public access, leaving 1.3 million student records exposed. The records contained sensitive information such as the names and addresses of students, along with test scores, grades, birthdates and some Social Security numbers.
Vickery notified Schoolzilla of the error and the company worked quickly to secure the backups. Schoolzilla has now implemented a number of additional technical safeguards to ensure all student data is protected and all affected schools have been contacted and notified of the data exposure. It is unclear exactly how many schools were affected.
The Schoolzilla AWS misconfiguration shows just how easy it is for sensitive data to be exposed online. This time it was a security researcher that discovered the exposed data, but cybercriminals are also performing scans for unprotected data. In this case, Schoolzilla was able to confirm that no unauthorized individuals had accessed the file except Vickery. Other companies may not be so fortunate.
Schools and other educational institutions are increasingly using AWS and other cloud storage platforms to house student data. Data can be securely stored in the cloud; however, human error can all too easily result in sensitive data being exposed.
The incident highlights just how important it is for organizations to conduct security scans and perform penetration tests to ensure that vulnerabilities and errors are rapidly discovered and corrected.