Hackers broke into databases at the University of California, Berkeley, and got access to student and alumni records, the university admitted today.
According to school officials, the data theft began Oct. 9 and went undetected until early April, when campus administrators performing routine maintenance identified messages left on a server by the hackers. The databases that were infiltrated contained social security numbers, health insurance information and non-treatment medical information such as immunization records.
According to the university, the attackers accessed a public Website and subsequently bypassed additional secured databases stored on the same server. So far the evidence suggests the intruders began to probe the system in September, and successfully broke into the server and its databases in early October.
After their final theft of data last month, campus technology experts discovered the messages on the server and were able to determine the scope and duration of thefts. The school has contacted the FBI, and has also launched an internal investigation that is being conducted in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In all, the school plans to notify more than 160,000 individuals who either had their Social Security numbers accessed or may be at risk for identity theft. In addition to UC Berkeley students and alumni, current and former students of Mills College who received or were eligible for health care at UC Berkeley were also affected. The data for the current and former students from UC Berkeley dates back to 1999; for the Mills College students and alumni, the data goes back to 2001.
“The university deeply regrets exposing our students and the Mills community to potential identity theft,” said Shelton Waggener, UC Berkeley’s associate vice chancellor for information technology, in a statement. “The campus takes our responsibility as data stewards very seriously. We are working closely with law enforcement and information security experts to identify the specific causes that may have contributed to this breach and to implement recommendations that will reduce our exposure to future attacks.”