Security Experts:

Professor Uploads Personal Data of 40,000 Students to Public Web Server

Late last week, the University of Hawaii West O‘ahu (UHWO) notified approximately 40,000 individuals that their personal information may have been compromised, after being tipped off by the Liberty Coalition, a non-profit group based in Washington D.C. The Liberty Coalition is a good group (not hackers or cybercriminals) and has been actively assisting the University and the FBI in their investigation.

According to the University, a faculty member inadvertently uploaded files containing data including names, social security numbers, addresses, birth dates and educational information to an unencrypted faculty web server. This Web server was apparently public and had reportedly been indexed by Google.

University of Hawai‘i

The University said that those potentially affected are students who attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa from 1990 – 1998 and during 2001. In addition, students who attended UHWO during Fall of 1994 or graduated from 1988 - 1993 may also be affected.

The now retired faculty member was conducting a longitudinal study of UH students and placed the files containing the information onto the faculty web server in December 2009 and left them on the server for almost a year.

Once notified of the exposure, the University promptly removed the unintentionally exposed files and disconnected the affected server from the network on October 18. Different files had different information on some of the individuals, but it is believed that the aggregation of the exposed files could allow matching to create the potential for identity theft.

UHWO is also working with UH System to adopt more proactive security measures to ensure better privacy protection.

Let’s hope this wasn’t a professor from the University’s Computer Science Department.

Other recent data breaches have occurred at other Universities including the University of North Florida, where foreign hacker managed to break into a database containing the personal information of high school and college students at the University, as well as a breach at Buena Vista University where 93,000 individuals were potentially exposed.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.