WIU: Security breach could compromise 240,000 records

June 17, 2006

Associated Press


The names, addresses and Social Security numbers for as many as 240,000 people connected to Western Illinois University were compromised by a hacker earlier this month, school officials said.

A hacker was in the system for a "relatively short period of time," and officials do not know if any records were viewed or copied, said Mitch Davidson, director of University Computer Support Services. He said the school has not had any reports of the records being used improperly.

The incident occurred on June 5 when someone accessed the WIU system that stores students' personal data, Davidson said. The system also holds credit card information for anyone who used the Web to buy items from the school's bookstore or who stayed in the hotel in the school's union.

"We regret any inconvenience and problems this breach may cause individuals," Davidson said Friday. "We are working diligently to ensure that the university computer systems are as secure as possible, with the goal that this type of breach does not occur again."

School officials were aware of the breach on the day it happened but did not announce it publicly until this week. The school dealt quickly with the immediate breach of security, but took some time to create a plan to deal with the issue, said WIU spokesman John Maguire.

The university's Office of Public Safety was also investigating, and WIU planned to begin mailing letters to those affected on Monday, Maguire said.

Students' academic information was not accessed, officials said.

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