USC warns 6,000 students ID information may have been accessed

August 26, 2006

Associated Press

The University of South Carolina is warning 6,000 current and former students that some of their personal information may have been accessed by an intruder into the school's computer system.

A security audit this summer determined a university computer server was accessed from outside the system in September 2005, school spokesman Russ McKinney said.

The intruder could have acquired a database used by the university post office that had the names, Social Security numbers and birthdays of about 6,000 students, McKinney said.

It's not known whether the information was accessed.

The university sent letters to the students. About 60 people have contacted the university, but none of them have reported their information was stolen, McKinney said.

"It should not have happened and we regret it," McKinney said. "We have secured the server. It cannot happen again."

It is the second time in four months the university has had to inform students that someone other than authorized university personnel had access to their personal information.

In April, about 1,400 students' names, Social Security numbers and birth dates were e-mailed accidentally to as many as 1,000 students in the Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management Program.

The university is taking steps to protect student information, including no longer using Social Security numbers to identify students and making it hard to hack into the school's computer network.

Faculty access to student information is restricted and university IDs no longer have Social Security numbers on them.

But progress has been slow because the university is dealing with computer systems designed in the 1970s, which depended on Social Security numbers to track information, said Bill Hogue, the university's chief information officer.

Two years ago, university trustees approved a total upgrade of the school's computer system, which is currently in progress.

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