Tribune staff reports Published July 14, 2006, 6:37 PM CDT
Northwestern University began sending letters and e-mails Friday to about 17,000 student applicants whose personal information may have been stolen from the university's computer system.
Officials realized in May that hackers had access to names, addresses and Social Security numbers stored on nine desktop computers, and they have spent the last two months investigating the incident. The security breach happened after troubleshooting software, which allows technical support staff to access computers remotely, was installed on the computers.
The affected computers were in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. The computers were shut down after the security breach was discovered.
There is no evidence the hackers accessed the personal information when they tapped into the computers, but Northwestern is contacting the individuals anyway. They include students who applied for admission or financial aid during the last six to eight years, said university spokesman Al Cubbage.
"There is no evidence that files that had personal identification information ... were accessed or downloaded," Cubbage said. "They may not have even known they were on those computers. But it may have occurred. That is why we're sending out notifications."
Anyone who thinks their records may have been involved in this incident can call 888-209-0097 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.