In the latest incident of an educational institution falling victim to a security breach, officials at the University of Maine this week are notifying thousands of students after hackers managed to infiltrate a pair of university servers.
"This is an insidious affront to the rightful privacy expectations of our students," Robert Dana, the University of Maine's dean of students, said in a statement.
"The criminals who make it their business to exploit our society's need and ability to store information are beneath contempt and we are engaging all possible resources to find the source of these attacks," he added.
The compromised servers stored data on some 4,585 students who received counseling services at the school's on-campus counseling center between August 2002 and June 2010. Breached data included student names, social security numbers and clinical information related to every student who received counseling services during that time.
The university said its on-campus police department has initiated an investigation into the data breach and is consulting with the U.S. Attorney's office and computer crimes experts at the U.S. Secret Service.
Similar university data breaches have been reported at colleges around the country earlier this year. In most cases, the student and faculty names and personal information were exposed after equipment, such as laptop computers or portable storage devices containing unencrypted data, were lost or stolen.
University of Maine officials said they began investigating the hacking incident on June 16 after employees at the counseling center reported difficulties accessing files on the compromised servers. An initial inquiry determined that one of the servers had been hacked as early as March 4.