Stolen Laptop Held Sensitive Student Data, Officials Say

Sonja Sharp covers crime. Contact her at [email protected]





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The security of the names and Social Security numbers of more than 98,000 UC Berkeley applicants, as well as current and former graduate students, may have been compromised after a campus laptop containing personal data was stolen earlier this month, UC officials announced Monday.

The stolen computer contained the names, Social Security numbers and some addresses and dates of birth for 98,369 individuals, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Marie Felde.

The individuals were graduate school applicants between fall 2001 and spring 2004-excluding law school students-graduate students who enrolled on campus between fall 1989 and fall 2003 and recipients of doctoral degrees from 1976 to 1999, according to a university statement.

There has been no evidence that the personal data has been received or abused, Felde said.

The thief, who is described as a middle-aged black woman, took the computer from a restricted area of the Graduate Division offices in Sproul Hall during lunch hour on March 11. The area would normally have been locked but had been momentarily left unlocked that day, Felde said.

Police and university officials delayed telling the public about the theft because they believed they had a good chance of catching the thief and recovering the laptop before anyone accessed files containing students' personal information, Felde said. This is the second time in six months that UC Berkeley has been the victim of personal data theft.

In September, a research database that included some 600,000 people was hacked into, although that theft has not been associated with any recent cases of identity theft.

The employee whose laptop was stolen analyzes data for the university concerning enrollment, retention and graduation rates and information about students' post-graduate activities, Felde said.

UC-wide policy requires all computers containing sensitive student information like Social Security numbers to be encoded, but the brand-new laptop was not scheduled to be encoded until later that same day, Felde said.

"It's extremely unfortunate," she said.

The Graduate Division is actively contacting the individuals whose information was in the stolen laptop, Felde said.

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