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Online attack exposes 197,000 personal records
Published: 2006-04-24

The University of Texas at Austin is warning students, employees and others that the school has been hacked--again.

The university told students, alumni and members of the press on Sunday that an unidentified Internet attacker broke into a database at the UT McCombs School of Business and made off with 197,000 sensitive records, some including social security numbers.

University IT administrators detected the illegal access to the database on Friday, April 21, but believe the attack began on April 11, UT said in a statement. Investigators tracked the attack back to an Internet address in the Far East, according to a news report.

"It is our highest priority to notify those who may be affected by this security breach," UT President William Powers Jr. said in the university's statement. "We have notified the attorney general and his Internet enforcement unit and are doing everything we can to protect those whose information has been accessed unlawfully."

This is not the first such incident for the University of Texas at Austin. In 2003, a court found then-student Christopher Phillips guilty of accessing protected computers without authorization and possession of stolen Social Security numbers. In that case, the university determined that the information did not appear to have been sold or otherwise disseminated to anyone else.

Other universities have also not fared so well, either. A compromised system at the University of California at Berkeley put at risk the personal information of 1.4 million Californians that take part in state social programs. A breach of the University of Georgia potentially exposed records on about 20,000 students. And a flaw in the online Web admissions application at the University of Southern California put at risk about 275,000 applicants records, though there is no evidence that more than a handful were accessed.

The sheer amount of data breaches in 2005 made the issue a major policy battle in state and federal legislatures.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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