UI contacts former students after laptop theft

October 8, 2007

By the Press-Citizen


The University of Iowa is informing 184 former and current students that their grade information was contained on a laptop computer stolen from a former teaching assistant now living in Arizona.

The theft of the computer, which occurred last month in a break-in of the instructor's home, contained class records such as attendance, test scores, and grades of students who took his philosophy courses at the UI between 2002 and 2006. Social security numbers (SSNs) were also present in 100 of the records.

UI Information Technology Security Officer Jane Drews analyzed backup copies of the files and found them an unlikely source for committing identity theft. "The instructor buried the files in his directory structure and obfuscated the social security numbers," Drews said. "While they were not encrypted, popular SSN scanning tools were unable to detect SSNs in any of the five files."

"The university never takes these incidents lightly," she said. "We believe we have a responsibility to inform anyone whose personal information has been exposed by a computer theft, if there is even a slight risk that the information could be mishandled."

Students affected were in sections of "Philosophy and Human Nature," "Philosophy and the Just Society," and "Principles of Reasoning" taught by former UI teaching assistant Tuomas Manninen.

Philosophy department chairman David Stern said that he is mailing letters to the 184 students and will accept phone calls from them if they have any questions. He said that Manninen contacted the university to report the theft, which occurred over the Sept. 15 weekend, after he had filed a police report about the break-in with local authorities.

To view frequently asked questions about the incident for students whose SSN information was not on the laptop, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~phil/noSSN.shtml. To view FAQs for students whose SSN information was on the laptop, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~phil/SSN.shtml.

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