Major Security Breach at Wisconsin Exposes Social Security Numbers

Almost 3,000 Social Security numbers were contained on the chemistry department's computers.


Hackers compromised 40 computers in the University of Wisconsin chemistry department, and that's not the worst part. The computers had personal information—like Social Security numbers—of 2,920 people affiliated with the school, the Badger Herald reports.

The hacking is believed to have started in 2001, the report says. The Office of Campus Information Security discovered the breach when it installed new protection software on August 31. But the people whose information was compromised didn't receive notice of the incident until October 12. The report says that although the information was exposed to hackers, it may not have been taken or used. It's believed that the computers were being used more for what the report calls "an underground network" that distributes movies, television shows, music, and software.

University officials contacted authorities.

"If someone puts illegal material on the computer ... using it as a source for music or movie downloads, that is something that may involve bringing the FBI in," Brian Rust, communications director for Wisconsin's Division of Information Technology, tells the Badger Herald.

Rust suggested several things for students, faculty, and university departments to do, including the setup of firewalls to protect valuable, private information.

"This is a huge campus," Rust says. "It's an ongoing effort to educate department staff and administrators about what good security practices are and strongly encouraging them to abide by those practices."

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