Database Gaffe Exposes Florida Student, Faculty Data

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Florida International University added itself to an inglorious roll call this week when officials at the Miami university's College of Education were forced to notify more than 19,000 students and 88 faculty members that their personal information had been exposed by an unsecure database.

FIU officials began sending out letters to affected students last week notifying them that a database used with the college's E-Folio software was not secured, giving unauthorized users an opportunity to access names, social security numbers and other information at their will.

The E-Folio software tracked student and faculty performance versus state and national teacher education standards.

Thus far, FIU officials say there's no evidence that any of the unsecured data has been used for identity theft or any other nefarious purpose.

Officials also said the database is now secured, but they still advised those affected to check their credit scores and keep close tabs on all their personal and financial information for the foreseeable future.

Earlier this month, Penn State University wrestled with its second major data breach in less than year, alerting some 15,000-plus students that their data was exposed after a botnet successfully usurped control of a university computer storing social security numbers and other personal data.

Similar data breach incidents occurred earlier this spring at Vanderbilt university and at the University of California San Francisco.

Security experts said colleges and universities remain a popular target for hackers because of the generally lax security standards and vast pools of research data typically found on university servers and computers.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.