Breach, Data Security

Massive data breach at Florida college

After breaching a server at Northwest Florida State College (NFSC) in Niceville, hackers accessed the personal information of hundreds of thousands of students, as well as employees – possibly resulting in 67 incidents of identity theft.

How many victims? Nearly 300,000.

What type of personal information? Social Security numbers, bank routing numbers, dates of birth, names, ethnicities, genders and, likely, addresses, phone numbers and college email addresses.

What happened? Between May and September, a folder containing multiple files on NFSC's main server was accessed. The files included information on 76,500 current and past students, about 200,000 students throughout the state eligible for Florida's Bright Futures scholarship, and 3,000 former and current college employees.

So far, it is believed that 67 employees have fallen victim to identify theft as a result of the breach, in which scammers used victims' information to access pay-day loans and open credit card accounts. The school announced the breach on Monday.

What was the response? NFSC President Ty Handy, who was also among the employees whose information was compromised, notified victims in a letter. A web page was set up to provide details on the incident and to aid them in placing fraud alerts.

Details: The hackers reportedly took out  personal loans that allowed them to debit bank accounts through PayDayMax and Discount Advance Loans. They also fraudulently opened and charged Home Depot credit cards.

This isn't the first breach to affect NFSC. In 2010, the school was among six Florida community colleges that experienced a breach that publicly exposed the information of students and employees.

Source:, The Miami Herald, Officials: Security breach contained at Northwest Florida State College,” Oct. 11, 2012.

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