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By | John Leyden 13th December 2006 16:48

Massive security breach at UCLA

Details on 800,000 may have been exposed

UCLA has warned 800,000 current and former students that their personal details might have been exposed to a hacker who broke into the university's computer systems. Staff members are also affected by what's being described as one of the biggest information disclosure breaches on record.

The names and personal details (including addresses and Social Security numbers) of students and workers at the California institution were left open by a series of attacks against a restricted database between October 2005 and late November 2006, when the intrusion was eventually detected after UCLA techies noticed an "exceptionally high volume of suspicious database queries". The FBI have been called in to investigate the case. Meanwhile UCLA said it was in the process of deploying enhanced IT security defences.

Jim Davis, UCLA's chief information officer, said that the hacker used an unspecified (and as yet undetermined) application vulnerability to gain access to systems without being detected. An internal investigation conducted after the breach was detected found that the hacker "specifically sought Social Security numbers", he added.

Although there's no evidence to date that the compromised data has been used in ID theft scams, acting chancellor Norman Abrams advises students and staff to keep a close eye on financial transactions made in their name using credit reporting agencies. UCLA has established a website and a toll-free phone number, 877 533-8082, in order to handle queries on the breach from concerned alumni.

The UCLA incident is the latest in a string of computer security breaches affecting financial institutions, universities and other large enterprises in the US. California's information security breaches disclosure law requires notification of these incidents in cases where personal data might have been disclosed.

In related news, an unspecified number of Honeywell workers were warned that their personal details might have been exposed following the theft of a PC from Denver offices of Affiliated Computer Services (a firm which handles human relations database records) in November.

The theft is the second PC theft security flap incident to affect Honeywell workers this year. Data held on the PC included the personal details of 1.4 million people hired by Honeywell and other firms in the eight months prior to the theft as well as information on people receiving family services in Colorado. Workers potentially hit by the breach are being offered fraud protection worth up to $25,000 for a year at no charge and a credit reference reporting service, the Arizona Republic reports

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