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4/24/2006
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University Of Texas Computer Breach Exposes 200,000 Records

The breach, the university's second in three years, included some Social Security numbers and "possibly other biographical data," according to a statement.

Nearly 200,000 records of alumni, faculty, staff, and current and prospective students of the business school at the University of Texas at Austin have been exposed in a data breach, school officials said Sunday. It was the second at the university in three years.

The breach was discovered Friday, and involved 197,000 records, some of which included Social Security numbers and "possibly other biographical data," UT said in a statement issued Sunday.

"It is our highest priority to notify those who may be affected by this security breach," said William Powers Jr., the university's president. "We have notified the attorney general and his Internet enforcement unit and are doing everything we can to protect those whose information has been accessed unlawfully."

A similar incident in 2003 was eventually traced a former student, Christopher Phillips, who was found guilty in 2005 of accessing protected computers without authorization, as well as possessing stolen Social Security numbers.

For multiple hacks over a two-year period that netted him 45,000 names, Phillips was sentenced in September 2005 to five years probation, and was ordered to pay $170,000 in restitution. He was also banned from using the Internet except for school or work activities.

The McCombs School of Business has posted a Web page with advice on dealing with data theft, and has published phone numbers, including a toll-free line, to take calls from current and former students, staff, and faculty.

The UT breach was far from the largest so far this year. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which maintains a list of all data losses since February 2005, there have been nine breaches of 200,000 or more identities since January 1.

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