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UNC Charlotte Snafu Exposes 350,000 Social Security Numbers

Some 350,000 current and former students, staff and faculty at UNC Charlotte may have been exposed to identity theft dating back more than a decade because of a security snafu. UNC Charlotte officials are adamant this was not a security breach where some hacker burrowed into the school's system. "This is an exposure of data," says university spokesman Stephen Ward. The data includes hundreds of thousands of social security numbers, financial account numbers and other personal information for students, faculty, staff and alumni. The university is supposed to keep data like that under lock and key, but someone put it on a shared hard drive and accidentally left the door wide open to the internet. Ward says it was the problem was discovered by a university employee "who was doing a Google search and found their personal information in that search." "Once that was reported, which was immediate, the open door was closed right away," adds Ward. That was on January 31, 2012. Ward says the door was open since November 9, 2011. But outside investigators brought in to assess the damage turned up another door that had apparently been gaping since 1997. Now the good news, says Ward, is that investigators found no sign that anyone had actually walked through the open door and accessed any of the personal data. To be safe - and because the law requires it - UNC Charlotte has sent a mass email to faculty, students and alumni urging them to monitor their bank accounts for suspicious activity and get a free credit check. Given the size and 14-year-span of the exposure, Ward says anyone who's ever been connected to the university should also take those precautions.