Local News

Audit Shows Community College Computers Susceptible To Hackers

Posted July 9, 2004 5:27 a.m. EDT

— A red flag went up Thursday for tens of thousands of North Carolinians enrolled in community colleges.

A statewide audit of the computer systems showed that hackers would have no problem getting information like Social Security numbers on students.

Although there has been no significant hacking involving community-college computers, there is concern it could happen. The audit released Thursday by the state auditor said 59 of the 60 community colleges statewide put student information in jeopardy.

"Someone who's interested in ID theft as a wealth of information on all of our students in the community college system and could used it inappropriately," State Auditor Ralph Campbell said.

The audit found only one campus statewide had documented policies and procedures that promoted good security. The report also found some retired and terminated employees still had access to their school's computer system.

Campbell believes someone could have maliciously changed grades.

Leaders at the North Carolina Community College System said immediate action has been taken to protect their 800,000 students following the audit. But they acknowledged they have known about the shortfalls for some time.

"We may have not needed more money to buy equipment, but money is needed to hire the additional staff to do the kind of things the security audit found out about," said Saundra Williams, of the N.C. Community College System.

The Community College System has put a team together to address the problems at each individual school. The ultimate goal is a systemwide fix.