Computer theft compromises personal student information

November 11, 2005

By Arcadiy Kantor, Assistant Development Editor

The Office of Enrollment Services was burglarized Oct. 16, resulting in the theft of several computer systems containing sensitive student information as well as other electronic equipment.

Information on approximately 13,000 past, present and prospective students was stored on the stolen computers, according to Amelia Gambino, interim assistant vice president of Institute Communications and Public Affairs (ICPA).

The disclosure of the information, though unintentional, is a violation of the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act, and the Institute has had to notify students who may have been impacted. "Letters have been sent out to students that may have been affected and their parents," Gambino said.

The information contained on the computer included Social Security numbers, birth dates, names and addresses of various students. According to the information sent out to students, the disclosure of this information can lead to identity theft.

However, Gambino said the administration does not expect the data on the computer will be used for identity theft. "The burglar stole a lot of things out of the enrollment services building. Nobody has any indication that the burglar knew or cared what was on the computers," she said.

The administration believes no students have fallen prey to identity thieves so far. "We haven't had any indication that any information was compromised," Gambino said. "We are relieved that none of the students [who] have received letters had any activity on their accounts."

Furthermore, Gambino said not all of the student information on the computers contained Social Security numbers and addresses that would facilitate identity theft.

Administrators have also compiled a comprehensive list of steps affected students should take to ensure they are protected.

Students who received a letter are encouraged to contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, and request a fraud alert be placed on their credit files.

The Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) is currently investigating the theft. "The burglary actually happened on a weekend when the building was getting new carpeting put in it," Gambino said.

According to Gambino, GTPD has a suspect in custody. He has been charged with theft by taking.

The department is also responding to the concerns raised by the incident. "The person who had the information on their computer was completely authorized to look at that information as part of their job," Gambino said.

As a result, the department is taking steps to ensure such an event does not happen again, particularly because such a large number of students was affected. "They certainly are making a lot of security adjustments to the building, [reviewing] policies as well as procedures on cleaning up desktops and that sort of thing," Gambino said.

Students interested in additional information can visit, email or call Enrollment Services at 404-894-9816.

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