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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Hundreds potentially exposed in data breach of college’s third-party ticket vendor

The third party vendor AudienceView, which Middleury uses for event ticketing, experienced a nation-wide data breach and notified the school about it on Feb. 23, the college told the community on Sunday. Though administrators were initially told the breach had not impacted anyone affiliated with the college, they later began to receive reports from students that their credit card information appeared to have been stolen.

Ticket sales through have been suspended until further notice, Interim Assistant Vice President for Information Technology Services (ITS) Chris Norris wrote in an email to the Middlebury community. Since then, Audience View has suspended all online sales for all schools, noting new security breach concerns.

On Feb. 28, AudienceView sent an email to some Middlebury community members it believed might have been impacted by the breach, providing additional information about the incident and what users could do. In an email to The Campus, Norris advised anyone who received this letter from AudienceView to assume they were exposed, whether or not they have noticed fraud on their account, and to cancel and replace their card as soon as possible.

AudienceViews, formerly called University Ticket, noticed suspicious activity within their product on Feb. 21 and began investigating, according to the email they sent to potentially exposed individuals.

“The investigation determined that between February 17, 2023, and February 21, 2023, certain individuals’ information may have been subject to unauthorized access and acquisition,” the email said.

The college is working to independently verify the relevant dates, and Norris told The Campus in his Wednesday statement that the vendor is now extending the date range of the investigation. Norris’ email to Middlebury community members encouraged anyone who had purchased tickets at any point last month to check their accounts for fraudulent activity.

For the Feb. 17 to 21 timeframe, AudienceView identified 665 individuals whose information might have been exposed in the breach — 594 college community members and 71 from the surrounding community — according to Norris.

The data breach includes personal information such as names, billing addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and payment information, according Norris’ all-school email. The breach did not impact in-person Box Office sales or other Middlebury systems, the college clarified.

AudienceView informed users of the data breach, which has impacted many higher education institutions. These include Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which addressed the issue on their web page. A number of students at Virginia Tech also recently reported credit card theft, and university police are investigating the matter in relation to the AudienceView breach, according to WDBJ7.

Some Middlebury students spoke to The Campus about credit or debit card fraud on their accounts following the AudienceView security breach.

Bailey Walker ’24.5 got an alert from his bank on Feb. 21 that there was fraud detected on his debit card. There was a $300 charge for online fast fashion retailer Shein, and the fraudster attempted another $1,000 charge at Best Buy after Walker froze his card. 

“I get that these things happen, and I'm grateful that my situation resolved itself, but I’m annoyed that this happened because I was participating in school events like the Winter Ball,” Walker said, referring to the Winter Carnival Ball, which took place on Feb. 18. More than 600 students bought tickets for the ball, with many using the college Box Office website, which uses AudienceView, to make their purchases.

“I initially thought it was from a bad purchase I made online, but I already think it’s kind of ridiculous that we have to pay $5 for small things like the Ball or thesis productions and on top of that the service lost our data and may have cost people a lot of money,” Walker said.

Tiffany Li ’26 had $994 charged to her account when a fraudster tried to make a purchase at New Life Cardio Equipment. She is currently waiting for a new card to be shipped to her.

“I’m glad that for me it got caught and I didn’t actually lose money, but it’s been a little inconvenient when I need to use my card for purchases,” Li said. 

Halsey Smith ’23 is also getting a new card after her bank detected a fraudulent charge for $5,364 to California benefit overpayment services. Her bank is reimbursing her for the charge.

As the college has paused use of AudienceView, ticketing for many upcoming events will take place in person at the Box Office. For the “Choral Chameleon: Music for Chameleons” concert taking place on Feb. 3, the college said the Box Office will open at 6:30 p.m. so attendees can buy tickets in person at the door. Other upcoming events will also rely on in-person or phone ticket sales for the time being, according to Norris.

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Abigail Chang

Abigail Chang ’23 (she/her) is the Editor in Chief.  

She previously served as a managing editor, Senior News Editor, News Editor and co-host of The Campus' weekly news radio show.  

Chang is majoring in English and minoring in linguistics. She is a member of the Media Portrayals of Minorities Project, a Middlebury lab that uses computer-assisted and human coding techniques to analyze bulk newspaper data.  

Throughout last year, Chang worked on source diversity and content audits for different media properties as an intern for Impact Architects LLC. Chang spent summer 2021 in Vermont, working as a general assignment reporter for statewide digital newspaper VTDigger.  Chang is also a member of the Middlebury Paradiddles, an a cappella group.

Lily Jones

Lily Jones ’23 is an online editor and senior writer.

She previously served as a Senior News Writer and SGA Correspondent.

Jones is double majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. She  also is an intern for the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and on the  ultimate frisbee team.