'Smash and Grab' Theft Exposes Personal Student Information
August 26, 2006 3:34 PM
SF State is reminding staff to purge computers of unnecessary sensitive information after a car burglary this summer exposed the personal data of thousands of former students.
On June 1 a thief broke into a car belonging to a faculty member in the College of Business, stealing a laptop computer containing the Social Security numbers of 2,751 former SF State students and 65 current students, as well as the partial Social Security numbers of 219 others.
Some student phone numbers and grade-point averages were also on the computer.
“The laptop theft served as an important reminder to all that old, archived information in data systems needs to be reviewed to ensure it’s compliant with new regulations,” said Ellen Griffin, SF State director of Public Affairs.
There are currently no suspects in the case, and University Police have not received any reports of the sensitive information being used.
“San Francisco police described the theft as a ‘typical smash and grab,’ most likely focused on the value of the hardware itself, not on the data,” Griffin said.
SF State has not released the professor’s name or said whether any disciplinary action has been taken.
“All faculty received an e-mail reminding them of data security concerns and reminding them to delete old Social Security numbers from PCs, laptops, PDAs and computer servers,” Griffin said. “Prior to this, and on an ongoing basis, all faculty, staff and administrators are mandated to take Employee/Student Information Privacy training before they can access employee or student records.”
The university became aware of the break-in on June 6, and six days later SF State registrar Suzanne Dmytrenko sent a letter notifying all individuals who were possibly affected.
According to its Web site, SF State is working with law enforcement to investigate this data breach and to develop safeguards against similar incidents.
Tips for preventing identity theft have been made available through SF State’s Web site at http://www.sfsu.edu/~admisrec/reg/idtheft.html, which suggests that affected individuals “carefully monitor bank statements, credit card statements and any statements relating to recent financial transactions.”
If suspicious or unusual activity is encountered, the Federal Trade Commission recommends contacting the fraud department at one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, closing any accounts that have been tampered with or fraudulently opened, filing a police report with the local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission using their identity theft hotline at 1-877-438-4338.
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