Stolen UC-Berkeley laptop recovered

September 15, 2005


SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- A stolen laptop computer holding personal information of more than 98,000 California university students and applicants has been recovered, but it uncertain whether the information had been tapped, the University of California, Berkeley said Thursday.

The laptop, which stored names and Social Security numbers, disappeared in March from a restricted area of the university's graduate division offices, forcing the university to alert more than 98,000 students and applicants of the theft.

The university said in a statement that a San Francisco man has been arrested and charged by the Alameda County district attorney with possession of stolen property after investigators discovered the laptop had been bought over the Internet by a man in South Carolina.

"UC police note that while a lab analysis could not determine whether the sensitive campus data was ever accessed, nothing in their investigation points to identity theft nor individuals involved in identity theft. It appears ... that the intent was simply to steal and sell a laptop computer," the university said in its statement.

Forensic tests showed files on the laptop had been erased and written over with a new operating system installation, leaving only residual data and making it virtually impossible to determine whether password-protected files had been breached, the university said.

"The San Francisco man who was arrested told police it is his practice to install a new operating system or erase and wipe clean old data from a computer before posting it for sale online," the university said.

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