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8/10/2005
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Hackers Break Into Two Universities, 100,000 Identities At Risk

Hackers broke into the computer networks of two universities and may have accessed 100,000 identities, including Social Security numbers, school officials in California and Texas said this week.

Hackers broke into the computer networks of two universities and may have accessed 100,000 identities, including Social Security numbers, school officials in California and Texas said this week.

Sonoma State University in California owned up to a breach that affected more than 61,000, while the University of North Texas said hackers may have gotten to nearly 39,000 personal records.

"Social Security numbers and names of 61,709 students who applied to, attended, or graduated from Sonoma State University from 1995 to 2002 have been exposed by an unauthorized access to seven campus workstations by a computer hacking program," the university said in a statement issued Monday.

There is no indication that any of the personal data was actually read or hijacked, the school said, but it's notifying the affected people via e-mail and has set up a Web site to answer questions.

The breach occurred in July, the university said, with the hackers gaining entry to the network by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows.

The compromised data was limited to name and Social Security numbers, so the hackers could not have obtained credit card or driver's license numbers, bank account data, or any other financial information, the school said.

Also on Monday, the University of North Texas in Denton, north of Dallas, said it had begun notifying nearly 39,000 students and alumni that their personal information may have been stolen. Although the bulk of the information was in the form of names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security numbers, more than 500 credit card accounts may also have been exposed, the school said in a statement.

Hackers broke into a server containing student housing records that went back to 1999, but the university also admitted that some financial aid records had been mistakenly compiled and retained in files accessible via Web searches using popular engines.

According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which maintains a nearly up-to-date list of all data breaches reported since the ChoicePoint scandal of February, 2005, more than 50 million Americans' identities have been put at risk so far this year by universities, businesses, and government agencies.

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