U of I changes policy to protect identities

July 14, 2006

By Erin Jordan, Register Iowa City Bureau


The University of Iowa will reduce the use of student Social Security numbers . a change that, had it been implemented earlier, would have lessened the danger of identity theft when a laptop computer was stolen last month.

The U of I has warned 280 current and former students in its MBA program to take precautions after a laptop containing their personal information was stolen from a professor's office in Davenport. There is no indication any of the information has been used since the June 30 theft, said Gary Gaeth, associate dean of the Tippie College of Business.

"The police have said that most often it's someone who wants to wipe the drive and get rid of it," Gaeth said about the thief's motives.

The U of I is in the process of replacing Social Security numbers with student identification numbers in electronic databases across campus, said Jane Drews, information technology security officer.

"We've been working hard on this for years," Drews said. Some databases, such as those dealing with federal financial aid, require Social Security numbers and will not be converted, she said.

The U of I does not have a policy about storing identification information on laptops and other mobile devices, Drews said, but additional security precautions will be discussed. "There are some unique security issues with mobile devices, and we need to address those," she said.

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