Education

Computer server for N.C. community colleges hacked

Posted December 18, 2009 6:22 a.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2009 5:32 p.m. EST

— Authorities say a hacker accessed a computer server for North Carolina community colleges that contained the personal information of nearly 51,000 people, including library patrons at Wake Technical Community College.

The state Community College System plans to mail letters next week telling students that someone hacked a database containing information used to identify library patrons, including Social Security and driver's license numbers.

System Senior Vice President Saundra Williams said that officials don't believe the hacker accessed those numbers and that it appears the security breach was limited. State law requires the schools system to send a warning.

Williams said officials are "making every effort to make sure that personal information is permanently removed from our records."

The security breach occurred Aug. 23, when a hacker remotely decoded a user password for server housed in a Raleigh office. The breach was detected the next morning during a routine check.

By mid-October, the community college system determined that the breach had affected students and other patrons at 25 campuses:  Alamance, Beaufort, Bladen, Blue Ridge, Brunswick, Central Carolina, College of the Albemarle, Gaston, Halifax, Haywood, Johnston, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Pamlico, Piedmont, Richmond, Rowan-Cabarrus, Sandhills, Southwestern, Tri-County, Vance-Granville, Wake Tech and Wilson.

Officials said they waited four months to notify students of the security breach because the investigation was "complex" and they wanted to get more information.

Those with questions about the letters or the status of their personal information should call 919-807-7241 or e-mail libraryInfo@nccommunitycolleges.edu.

The state Attorney General's Office provides information about credit checks and protecting personal information.