Errant e-mails compromise hundreds of student IDs

November 3, 2006

By Breanna Hockenbury, Cavalier Daily Staff Writer

Notifications from Student Financial Services intended for students whose registration was blocked were erroneously sent to the wrong students in emails that included others' Social Security numbers.

Student Financial Services intended to send 1,264 emails to alert students of registration blocks. Only 632 e-mails were actually sent out late Tuesday evening. These e-mails contained the student IDs of the 632 other students, who never received an e-mail. The mistake was not discovered until the next morning.

University spokesperson Carol Wood said that Student Financial Services discovered the error Wednesday morning and began correcting the action immediately by contacting the Information Technology and Communications Office security department, which could investigate and fix the problem.

The mistake was a result of an error on the part of a computer programmer, who neglected to review the program before it was used, Wood said.

"The programmer submitted the program with an error in the program code and did not perform the review of the output file prior to generating the e-mail to students," Wood said.

Student Financial Services will be notifying students of this error soon. According to Wood, two letters will be sent to all students involved. The first letter will inform those students whose Social Security numbers were released of the situation. The second letter will be sent to those who mistakenly received the e-mails and will instruct them to delete the original e-mails. These letters have not yet been sent.

"In these letters Student Financial Services apologizes to the students, explains what happened and then tells them how to monitor [for] ID theft," Wood said.

When first-year College student Will Rucker was asked how he felt about his Social Security number being accidentally released, he said he was unaware of the situation.

"I was pretty upset when I first heard the news [from The Cavalier Daily], especially because Student Financial Services did not inform me of the situation," Rucker said.

College student Lance Murashige said he received an e-mail addressed to Rucker that involved his Social Security number on Tuesday night.

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