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A Baltimore County school computer system was open to internal searches

The Baltimore County school system is investigating problems stemming from a recent Microsoft update that allowed staff and students to search across one of its computer information systems.

The technology staff became aware of the problem and developed fixes Wednesday night.

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Interim School Superintendent Verletta White sent out a message to staff at noon Thursday alerting them to the problem and asking them to make changes to the settings in their computer so that documents could not be available to others.

“Microsoft Office 365, and particularly OneDrive, released a new feature on May 29, 2019, that allows for BCPS users (students and staff) to perform a search across the entire BCPS OneDrive system and return results for any files or folders that match the search,” White wrote in the email to staff. “This means if a user has or does share files with ‘everyone,’ those files are now searchable by every user (students and staff).”

Brandon Oland, a spokesman for the school system, said technology staff have since shut down that ability to share and are looking to see who might have tried to search the system and what information might have been seen.

The school system has several platforms that students and staff routinely use in addition to BCPS OneDrive.

Schoology, a new learning management system, is used by parents, teachers and students. Teachers can share grades, class assignments and other materials with students on that system, for instance. Oland said that Schoology was not effected by the problem and could not be searched.

The Student Information System also was not subject to the problem either. That system contains personal student data that is collected over time.

Oland said that during 2014 and 2015, Microsoft allowed users to share documents if the user changed a setting to allow a document to be shared to everyone.

That feature went away after 2015. Documents created after that would not have been searchable. However, Oland said, documents or folders created during the earlier period that people continued to add information to recently would have been open to be searched.

The problem occurred on May 29, when Microsoft updated its system to allow documents to be shared to everyone again.

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