UI warns research subjects of possible security breach

September 29 2006

Iowa City Press-Citizen


The University of Iowa is contacting subjects in research studies following attacks on a computer in which personal information about those subjects was stored.

The computer, used by UI psychology professor Michael O'Hara and UI psychiatry professor Scott Stuart, contained the Social Security numbers of some 14,500 subjects who were participants in research studies on maternal and child health from 1995 until the present.

"All persons whose information may have possibly been exposed are being notified and advised on what actions they may take to protect their confidential information," said O'Hara.

Steve Fleagle, UI associate vice president and university chief information officer, said the attacks against the computer were launched and discovered last week. He emphasized, however, that there is no evidence that any information on the computer was obtained in the incidents.

"Although the evidence we've collected in this case indicates the risk is low, we are taking the utmost caution by sharing information about the incident with everyone who may have been impacted," Fleagle noted. He said law enforcement agencies have been notified, and that his own department's analysis of the intrusions indicate they were automated attacks designed to obtain a place to store video files for subsequent distribution.

In a notification letter to the research subjects, the university directs them to a resource Web page -- http://www.psychology.uiowa.edu/faq.html -- which features frequently asked questions about the incident, advises them how to place a fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus, briefs them on how to run periodic credit reports to ensure their accounts have not been activated by unauthorized personnel, and provides other germane information.

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