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Breach Of University Server Threatens Personal Data Of More Than 175,000

Attackers use one server to launch an attack on a second server containing sensitive info

Virginia Commonwealth University has disclosed a security breach that could put the personal data of more than 176,000 faculty, staff, students, and affiliates at risk.

In a breach notice from Virginia Commonwealth University, CIO Mark Willis said the school has detected unauthorized access to a server containing personal data on current and former VCU and VCU Health System staff and students.

"On October 24, routine monitoring of servers supporting a VCU system uncovered suspicious files on one of the devices," the notice says. "The server was taken offline and a forensic investigation was launched to identify what unauthorized activities had taken place and the vulnerabilities that led to the compromise. The vulnerabilities have been corrected, and it has been determined that this server contained no personal data.

"Five days later, VCU’s continuing investigation revealed two unauthorized accounts had been created on a second server, which also was taken offline," the notice continues. "Subsequent analysis showed the intruders had compromised this device through the first server. The intruders were on the server a short period of time and appeared to do nothing other than create the two accounts."

Files on the second server contained data on 176,567 individuals, including either a name or eID, Social Security number, and, in some cases, date of birth and contact information, according to the notice.

"Our investigation was unable to determine with 100 percent certainty that the intruders did not access or copy the files in question," the notice says. "We believe the likelihood that they did is very low." The university says it is informing those affected both by email and by first-class mail.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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