TALLAHASSEE (CBS4/AP) – A computer hacker taught a lesson to nearly 300,000 students, faculty and employees at a Florida Panhandle college on Wednesday.
Education officials said that the computer hackers accessed confidential information of staff and students in a massive security breach.
A breach that at first involved employees at Northwest Florida State College was much larger than suspected and now potentially involves student records from across the state, state and college officials said.
The Department of Education said hackers stole 200,000 records including names, Social Security numbers and birth dates for any student statewide who was eligible for Florida's popular Bright Futures scholarships for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.
"We speculate this was a professional, coordinated attack by one or more hackers," said Northwest Florida State College President, Ty Handy, in a memo that went out to employees on Monday.
The hackers also stole more than 3,000 employee records, including some that contained confidential financial information. Some 76,000 records containing personal identification information from students who attended the college was also hacked.
"We want to be sure that we fully understand the situation and provide accurate information to those impacted," said Florida College System Chancellor Randy Hanna in a statement. "While some of the contact information is dated, we will be trying to reach every student whose records may have been captured."
Because of the scope of the breach, federal authorities have joined the local and state investigation that got under way last week, the school said.
The breach occurred sometime between late May and late September.
College officials said in a news release that 50 employees to date have reported issues with identity theft, including the college president, faculty and staff. The information has been used to either obtain personal loans or to take out a Home Depot credit card.
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