ID Thieves Swiped 163,000 People's Info from Butler University

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Concept photo in high contrast black and white of hacker's single finger on keyboard
Jeff Wasserman/Shutterstock
By Christine DiGangi

A data breach at a private university in Indianapolis raises questions about storing people's personal information years after it is no longer needed. A hacker acquired data, including Social Security numbers, of about 163,000 students, alumni, faculty, staff and applicants of Butler University -- from records dating back to 1983.

The university first learned of the issue in May, when California law enforcement contacted the university, saying it had an identity thief in custody who had a flash drive containing personal information of a few dozen employees. Some of those individuals experienced unauthorized use of their data, and the university started investigating.

The investigation concluded that 163,000 people with ties -- some with very loose ties -- to Butler had their information exposed to hackers between about November 2013 and May 2014. The vulnerability has been fixed, said Michael Kaltenmark, Butler's director of external relations.

Not everyone who has shared their personal information with the university in the last 31 years is a victim, he said, but that's still a high number of records, considering the size of the school: In 2013, the university had an enrollment of 4,902 (undergraduate and graduate), 1,138 faculty and staff and an alumni network of more than 44,000. Those affected by the breach have been sent emails or letters informing them of the issue and offering a year of free credit monitoring.

What the School Did, and What You Should Do

Of course, for someone who applied to Butler a few decades ago, it's unlikely the contact information on his or her application is the same as it is now, but that doesn't mean they're safe. Even those who haven't received letters should check their credit reports for signs of fraudulent activity, such as credit accounts they don't recognize, or collections accounts for debts they did not incur.

Butler is reviewing its document storage and retention policy, and other institutions would be wise to do the same. It can be extremely difficult to prevent cyberattacks, but limiting exposure of sensitive information in the first place can make a huge difference to potential victims, because identity theft takes time to recover from and can damage victims' credit standing.

Free credit monitoring is a standard response to data breaches these days, but consumers should keep in mind that the threat of identity theft doesn't expire in a year. Even those who haven't received notice of a data breach should check their credit reports (for free, annually) or any errors or extraneous accounts. Checking your credit scores regularly also serves as an identity theft monitor, because a sudden, unexpected change in your score may indicate fraud. Using free tools like those available through Credit.com, you can check your credit scores every month.

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8 Comments

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mae13rle11

what is a people's ?

July 02 2014 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
savannahswithgod

What happened to the light photon sensitive security system they was coming up with as if you try to mess with the net it would know? This stuff makes all those people selling lifelock and everything else as happy as can be. Wonder when they are going to quit hacking and just send everybody kiddie porn so they can tie up the court systems with that or when they are going to get the message to the guys in the Nuke silo's to send those babies off? They could solve this problem if but for one thing, money's involved, them who designed the net making more money. Guess tomorrow the Gov checks won't be there somebody in Peru will have a nice bank account?

July 02 2014 at 4:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savannahswithgod's comment
mac2jr

Who protects the user agaist companies like LifeLock from misusing the information that they collect?

July 03 2014 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

318,000,000 people in the U.S.A. are subjected to having private, supposively secure, information 'borrowed' by people that do NOT deserve to LIVE...

We should pass a law that if you are caught stealing personal data, you are executed, period... No courts, no attorneys, no parole offercers, just a firing squad...

We have in the U.S.A. what is called 'victimless crimes', and I was one of these people in that my company, a stereo business, was robbed of all the product, much of it belonging to clients. This 'victimless crime' (since no one was in the building and got hurt) cost me the business and some $300,000, it also put 8 families out of work two weeks before Christmas that year, and it cost over 120 clients angush and weeks of insurance claims, etc. My insurance company, they cancelled me for NOT having four separate alarm systems, I only had three, including a 24/7/365 'professional' well-known firm..

Thus, in all crimes that can be proven, just SHOOT the Bastards...

Wake up America, WAKE UP... . please...

July 02 2014 at 4:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mac2jr's comment
democrap2

A Democrat that supports Capital Punishment!!

July 03 2014 at 7:47 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to democrap2's comment
mac2jr

First I am an Independent, second only if caught in the act of committing a crime. I do NOT support Capital Punishment for someone 'accused' of a crime and put through what is many times a corrupt court system...

July 03 2014 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
jkennedy806

oh Bullshit my husband's identity was stolen by a bank -- after he died. And as his widow I am paying the price for it. I have done everything I was suppose to do and even now almost 10 years later I am still having issues

July 02 2014 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jkennedy806's comment
David Allen CITRMS

I'm very sorry to hear that after the loss of oyur spouse you are further devastated by having to deal with what Identity Thieves have done. I went thru an ID Theft situation when buying my home, interest was going to go up, payments were going to increase. Fortunately, I was able to pick up the phone, get a Law Firm to write them stating my rights as a victim and my credit was cleared and home purchase went thru smoothly. These attorneys helped me and others www.legalshieldassociate.com/davidallen55
Good luck!

July 02 2014 at 8:06 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply