University of Idaho Reports Possible Data Loss From Computer Theft

Published: January 12, 2007

MOSCOW, Idaho – The theft of three University of Idaho desktop computers from the university Advancement Services office may have put some personal data of university alumni, donors, employees and students at risk. To date, the university has had no indication that the information has been accessed, misused or used for fraudulent purposes.

An internal investigation conducted by the university revealed that six months prior to the theft, the computer hard drives contained datasets with names, addresses and Social Security numbers for approximately 70,000 individuals. As a precaution, the University of Idaho is making a broad public notification about the computer theft to approximately 331,800 individuals. The larger number represents the total number of individuals whose information may have been accessed by Advancement Services as part of the office’s work at the university. In-state residents are receiving an e-mail notice and out-of-state residents are receiving a letter by regular mail.

The hard drives did not contain credit card or other personal account information, said Christopher D. Murray, vice president for university advancement. “We deeply regret this incident and the worry and inconvenience it may cause, but we want to assure donors, alumni, students and employees that the University of Idaho is strengthening its processes for securing and storing our sensitive data,” said Timothy P. White, University of Idaho president.

The theft occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday and was discovered and reported by an employee in the university’s Advancement Services department. The incident remains under investigation by law enforcement investigators with the Latah County Sheriff’s Office, which had asked the university to delay notification of the theft to preserve the integrity of the criminal investigation. To date, the computers have not been recovered. Anyone with knowledge regarding the theft of the computers should contact Latah County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Vietmeier or Detective Tim Besst at (208) 882-2216.

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“Our immediate concern is to alert those whose information may have been compromised,” said Murray. The university has distributed a media alert, established a website (www.identityalert.uidaho.edu) with information about the incident and set up a telephone hotline at (866) 351-1860.

The University of Idaho took immediate steps to investigate the nature of the data contained on the stolen computers and to assess and improve upon its internal physical and electronic security. Among the other steps being taken by the university:

  • Removing sensitive information from specific computing devices
  • Installing encryption software on desktop and laptop systems that access sensitive information
  • Enhancing physical and electronic security
  • Improving data management protocols

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University of Idaho press release

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