WEB EXTRA: Georgetown servers breached, GW says ours are secure

An intruder gaining access to confidential information on a Georgetown University server has led to a Secret Service investigation, but technology officials here said students shouldn’t be worried that GW’s servers are prone to attacks as well.

In early March, Georgetown announced that that the Secret Service is investigating an attack on a server containing personally identifiable information, such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of more than 41,000 individuals who may have received services from the D.C. Office on Aging.

The computer server was managed by a Georgetown researcher as part of a grant to manage information on the various services provided through the Office on Aging. The intrusion came from outside the university from an individual who did not have permission to access the data, according to a Georgetown news release.

Darlene Nowlin, public affairs specialist with the D.C. Office on Aging, would not comment on the attack and referred questions to Georgetown. Georgetown spokesman Erik Smulson declined to comment on the situation.

Alexa Kim, GW executive director of Information System Services Technology Services, said the University utilizes many tools to help reduce the risk of identity theft, such as anti-virus and personal firewall software, intrusion detection and prevention systems that limit the likelihood of an attack on GW’s systems.

Kim said there has never been a documented case of identity theft at GW due to information stored in systems owned by the University. Additionally, she said that in the past five years the center core server that contains confidential information has not fallen prey to unauthorized access due to increased security efforts by the University.

“Since 2001 the GW network has not had to be shut down due to a security-related incident,” she said.

Kim also said that the implementation of the GWid system – randomly generated identification numbers issued to all students, staff and faculty this semester – will serve as a protection from potential identity theft as well.

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