Monmouth leaked data on students

October 20, 2005

By Kelly Heyboer, Star-Ledger Staf

Monmouth University accidentally posted the names and Social Security numbers of 677 students on the Internet for 4 1/2 months before a student discovered the error earlier this month, campus officials said yesterday.

The private university in West Long Branch sent letters to students yesterday advising them to check their credit reports for signs of fraud or identity theft. So far, no students have reported a problem.

"We have no reason to believe any confidential information has been accessed or misused," said Petra Ludwig, a university spokeswoman.

Monmouth is the second New Jersey university to announce a Social Security number computer glitch in less than a week. Last Thursday, Montclair State University sent an e-mail to its students admitting that 9,100 undergraduates' names, majors and Social Security numbers were inadvertently posted on its Web server for nearly four months.

Both Monmouth and Montclair State officials said students first noticed the problem when they typed their names into Internet search engines and found links to university pages listing their personal information.

At Monmouth University the information was contained in campus advising files that were initially stored on a password-protected site. But on May 29, a campus employee moved the files to a site on the university's Web server that is accessible to the public, Ludwig said.

Campus officials removed the files on Oct. 9 and contacted Google and the other major Internet search engines to erase any remaining links.

"It's all been taken down," Ludwig said.

Students were told to get copies of their credit reports and contact police if they notice anything suspicious.

At Montclair State, 64 students and parents had contacted the university about the Social Security number computer error as of last night. Most had questions or angry comments for campus officials.

"Nobody had indicated any unauthorized use of their personal information," said Ann Frechette, a Montclair State spokeswoman.

Montclair State hired an information technology security firm to analyze how the private information ended up on the Internet and to recommend changes so the error does not happen again, Frechette added.

Over the last few years tens of thousands of students at colleges around the nation have had their Social Security numbers exposed because of technical glitches, human error or computer hackers.

Last month, Miami University in Ohio notified 21,762 students that their grades and Social Security numbers were accidentally left on the Web. A few weeks later, the Social Security numbers and loan information for 300 City University of New York law students were posted on the Internet due to "human error," school officials said.

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