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[January 01, 2013]
Penn State computer server containing Social Security numbers of former Altoona campus students hacked
Jan 01, 2013 (Centre Daily Times (State College - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A Penn State server containing the Social Security numbers of former students at the Altoona campus was hacked in September, and the university said officials began notifying them last week.
The server, which is a network of computers, was found to be infected on Sept. 10 with malware, or harmful software designed to damage computers, Penn State said in a news release on Friday. The server, located on the University Park campus, had the Social Security numbers of 1,406 students who were enrolled at the Altoona campus before 2005.
Penn State spokesman Reidar Jensen said the server was taken offline the same day as soon as the malware was discovered. In this case, the malware gave an unauthorized computer access to the server.
The investigation has taken more than four months, and the server in question is still being evaluated, Jensen said.
"Because the computer involved was a server, which serves a network of computers, the forensic investigation was more complex and time consuming than it would have been for a single machine, such as a laptop," Jensen said.
Sarah Morrow, the university's chief privacy officer, said officials do not think the Social Security numbers were accessed.
"But those affected should remain alert in the event that an individual attempts to use their identity," Morrow said. "Even when theft is only a remote possibility, we alert anyone who may have been affected and arm them with information and steps to take to mitigate their risk." On Friday, Penn State mailed letters to those whose Social Security numbers may have been compromised by the malware.
The response is in line with the Pennsylvania Breach of Personal Information act, which requires Penn State to notify anyone whose personal, identifying information is a risk of being disclosed because of a computer being hacked or lost.
For more information, people can call the university's call center toll-free at 855-842-8351 once Penn State reopens after the holiday break on Wednesday.
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