UTSA hunts computer hacker but says no information stolen

September 15, 2006

By Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, Express-News Staff


Officials at the University of Texas at San Antonio are searching for a computer hacker who jeopardized the security of records for tens of thousands of students and faculty members.

University spokesman David Gabler said the incident is being investigated by the university's technology team and police as well as state and federal officials.

The university sent out 64,000 letters Friday to those affected, including 53,000 current and former students and 11,000 faculty and staff members.

Gabler said the unauthorized access was discovered Aug. 16 during a routine risk assessment of the university's computer servers, which caught the problem before any information was taken.

"We confirmed that no data was copied, altered or taken out of the server," Gabler said.

The server contained information on students . including names, addresses and Social Security numbers . who have received financial aid in the past four years, as well as information on faculty and staff who have been employed at the university in the past four years.

Computer security is an ongoing problem for universities. The University of Texas at Austin has dealt with two serious security breaches in recent years in which, unlike the incident at UTSA, hackers were able to copy sensitive information.

This spring, hackers gained access to computer systems at the McCombs School of Business and obtained information on about 173,000 people, including Social Security numbers for 84,000.

In 2003, a UT-Austin student broke into a database of Social Security numbers, but was tracked down in a few days.

Adam Cowdin, president of UTSA's student government association, said he's confident about the school's security measures.

"The concern is always there, but I think we do a good job at UTSA of protecting student information," Cowdin said. "The fact that no information was compromised shows how good our systems really are. I don't want to say it's bound to happen, but in a way it's good they got in without getting information so we can further expand security measures so that next time they won't even get that far."

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