Jan. 25, 2006
Two recent computer security breaches at the University of Delaware
have resulted in the possible exposure of names and Social Security
Numbers that were stored on the machines.
A computer in the University's School of Urban Affairs and Public
Policy was hacked, and a back-up hard drive in the UD Department of
Entomology and Wildlife Ecology was stolen.
The computer in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy was
attacked sometime between Nov. 22-26 by an unknown hacker, and it
contained a portion of a database that included Social Security
numbers for 159 graduate students. "Since the incident, those affected
have been notified, the file has been removed from the computer, and
we have taken steps to properly secure the system," Jeff Raffel,
director of the school, said.
A back-up hard drive was stolen from the Department of Entomology and
Wildlife Ecology some time between Dec. 16-18, and a police report was
filed Dec. 19. A valuable microscope worth nearly $6,000 and belonging
to Judith Hough-Goldstein, professor of entomology, also was stolen,
and it is believed the theft of the hard drive was an afterthought.
The hard drive contained personal information on a few individuals,
and Jack B. Gingrich, a postdoctoral fellow in the department whose
hard drive was stolen, has informed all those involved.
The University's policy is to notify all individuals if their personal
information may have been compromised following such incidents, and in
both cases, letters have been sent to everyone whose personal
information may have been compromised. The letters informed them of
the breach and shared information on how to combat identity theft. It
is unknown whether any personal information was actually acquired in
Individuals with concerns about identity theft may visit a special web
site prepared by Information Technologies at
UD's Office of Information Technologies has conducted a campuswide
campaign to help departments protect sensitive personal nonpublic
information (PNPI), such as Social Security and credit card numbers.
Every University department was visited and advised about proper
security for stored PNPI.
Information Technologies staff also stressed collecting such
information only when required and reiterated the responsibility of
each employee to follow UD policy, Delaware laws and federal laws and
regulations for the processing and safekeeping of confidential,
"In every department, those individuals who are responsible for
maintaining records must understand that they are responsible for
assuring compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
(FERPA) and other laws that govern the use of PNPI," Susan Foster,
vice president for information technologies, said.
"This includes not only the proper use of PNPI but the responsibility
to secure systems in which it resides," she said.
Although the University has moved away from using Social Security
Numbers as identifiers, some older databases that University
departments and units set up in the past may still have such
Information Technologies has posted guidelines aimed at helping
departments secure PNPI and make sure they are in compliance with the
University policy and the law. Those can be found at
The guidelines direct departments to ensure the privacy of PNPI by
encrypting electronic transmissions, not storing PNPI locally and
protecting PNPI when working from home or outside the University.
Members of the University community with questions about uses of PNPI
should call the Information Technologies Help Center at (302) 831-6000
or send email to [email@example.com].
Additional information is available at these sites:
* Protecting Personal Non-Public Information [www.udel.edu/ssn/];
* UD Computer Security [www.udel.edu/security/]; and
* Responsible Computing: A Manual for Staff
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