Universities, Colleges Vulnerable to Data Theft

Published: January 29, 2006

EUGENE, Ore. – Nearly half of the computer data breaches reported since February 2005 have taken place at colleges, universities and university-affiliated medical centers, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego-based nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

More than 52 million Americans have had their personal information compromised, and of the 113 breaches reported, 55 occurred at colleges and universities. The schools where breaches have occurred include University of California, Berkeley; Boston College; Northwestern University; Michigan State; Purdue University; University of Iowa; Valdosta State; Duke University; University of Hawaii; University of Connecticut; University of Southern California; University of Colorado, Boulder; Sonoma State University; University of Utah; Kent State and Georgia Tech.

An official from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said that universities and colleges are more susceptible to attacks because they have a lot of data that is decentralized. As a result, it is difficult to control access. Schools can improve data security by encrypting records, collecting less student data and not using Social Security numbers.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse began compiling this information after ChoicePoint announced its data had been compromised. For more information, go to www.privacyrights.org.

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