By Matt Joyce, The Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Hackers broke into a University of Texas
database and stole the names, Social Security numbers and e-mail
addresses of more than 55,000 students, former students and
employees, officials said.
A preliminary evaluation found no evidence the information was used
to illegally obtain credit cards or withdraw money from bank
accounts, said Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman. School officials
said they were notifying the victims.
Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle said search warrants related to
the case were served late Wednesday in Austin and Houston. No arrests
had been made by Thursday afternoon.
The theft was discovered Sunday when employees found a computer
malfunction, according to Dan Updegrove, the university's vice
president for information technology who described the incident on
the school's Web site.
The database was hacked by a computer in Austin several times
beginning on Feb. 26 and ending Sunday. Updegrove said the hackers
used a program to query the database with 3 million potential Social
Security numbers, resulting in about 55,200 successful matches.
Updegrove acknowledged the breach could have been prevented with
"We flat out messed up on this one," he said. "Shame on us for
leaving the door open, and shame on them for exploiting it. Our
number one goal is to get those data back before they get misused."
Richard M. Smith, a Cambridge, Mass., Internet security and privacy
consultant, said hackers prey on organizations with easy openings.
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"They either didn't do a firewall properly or password protect
properly," he said of the university. "There's probably a whole lot
of things they didn't do right."