U.C. Berkeley laptop with personal data of 98,000 stolen

Police at the University of California at Berkeley are investigating the theft of a laptop that contained names and Social Security numbers of more than 98,000 graduate students and applicants.

In a statement released Monday, U.C. Berkeley officials said the computer was stolen March 11 from the Graduate Division offices. A campus employee spotted the thief leaving with the laptop, who entered a restricted area of the offices while it was momentarily unoccupied, and contacted police.

The laptop contained files on people who applied to graduate school at the university, except for law school students, between fall 2001 and spring 2004. The computer also had data on graduate students who enrolled between fall 1989 and fall 2003, recipients of doctoral degrees from 1976 through 1999, and others.

About one-third of the files included birth dates and/or addresses in addition to names and Social Security numbers.

There is no indication that the personal data on the laptop was accessed or used, but U.C. Berkeley is trying to notify the 98,369 individuals whose data was on the laptop, officials said.

Since last year, the university has had a policy that restricted data on portable equipment be encrypted and "campus units are in the process of moving toward full compliance with this new policy," officials said.

The Graduate Division is beefing up security, including using encryption software on the few computers that contain Social Security numbers, increasing building security, and staff training.

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