Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

February 20, 2014

Major breach

University cyberattack risks privacy of many

Another cyberattack — this one at the University of Maryland — has put the personal information of hundreds of thousands of people at risk.

University President Wallace Loh said in an open letter Wednesday that the breached database held names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers maintained by the school. In all, more than 309,000 students, staff and alumni now have their personal information at risk.

Although Loh said there was no financial, academic, health or contact information taken in the breach, the school plans to provide a free year of credit monitoring to anyone whose information was leaked. Students, faculty and other personnel who have been issued a University ID at the College Park and Shady Grove campuses since 1998 were affected.

School officials said the data breach was done by someone who has a sophisticated knowledge of how to break into a database. The FBI, U.S. Secret Service and University of Maryland are trying to track down the perpetrator.

Cyberattacks have been in the news a number of times in recent months. The most notorious incident was the breach of credit card information of Target department store customers.

While people are repeatedly warned to take steps to prevent identity theft, there is not much that can be done when a database of a business or institution is breached.

It’s doubtful there will ever by a totally foolproof way to protect data. What can be certain, though, is the need for tough prosecution and sentencing of anyone convicted of stealing someone else’s personal information.

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