Letters to Tufts alumni warn of security breach

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / June 9, 2010

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Thousands of Tufts University alumni have received letters over the past few days warning about a computer security breach that may have left Social Security numbers and other personal information exposed.

According to school officials, several computers were recently exposed to an unknown virus or malicious software program. The computers contained old student files, which may have been downloaded.

“We don’t have any direct evidence of any unauthorized use of personal information, but we thought it would be a good thing to notify those individuals exposed,’’ said Kimberly Thurler, a Tufts spokeswoman.

Seven thousand alumni are affected, and warning letters started going out May 24.

Tufts is offering each alumnus a free year of credit monitoring service from Experian.

Tufts, like many other colleges, once used Social Security numbers as student identification numbers. That practice is quickly going out of practice across the country as identity theft fears have climbed. The files that were exposed were old records that still contained Social Security numbers.

Thurler said Tufts is in the process of locating and destroying those kinds of records. “This is a case of old files that were still on isolated computers,’’ Thurler said. “A small number of isolated computers were exposed.’’

At least one of the computers affected was located at Tufts’s Dining Services Department, according to one of the warning letters provided to the Globe by an alumna.

Thurler said she did not know the nature of the files that were breached.

Malicious software can seek out personal information like Social Security numbers and passwords. Infected computers can send data to a third party.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at

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