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UC-Berkely data breach affects 160,000 current and former students

UC-Berkeley is the latest data breach victim at an institute of higher learning. The notification letters and emails were sent out Friday to 160,000 current and former students to let them know records dating back as far as 1999 had been accessed by hackers thought to be based in Asia.

The source of the stolen records was the school’s health center, which retains extensive information, including Social Security numbers, health insurance information, immunization histories and the names of treating physicians. Student records involved include those of students who studied overseas, and 3,400 additional students from Mills College who were allowed to use the UC-Berkeley medical facility.

System administrators spotted the breach roughly a month ago, but were stunned on April 21 when they discovered the magnitude of the breach, which apparently took place over a period of several months.

The breaches initially appeared to be nothing more than routine system maintenance, but the hackers began leaving taunting messages for university employees.

Years ago, hackers and identity thieves were primarily young people working out of their basements, whose only motivation was the satisfaction of proving they could beat security.

These days, hackers are often players in sophisticated and far-flung cybercrime and identity theft syndicates. Asia, Eastern Europe and Nigeria are known to be especially active, according to John Mitchell, a Stanford University computer science professor.

The taunting messages might indicate the UC-Berkeley hackers are amateur kids.

An FBI spokesman said the Bureau was notified immediately, but wouldn’t divulge any further details. UC and FBI are working together as the investigation proceeds.

Published May 11 2009, 12:37 PM by IdentityTheft
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