College Information Breach Could Have Far-Reaching Effects - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

College Information Breach Could Have Far-Reaching Effects

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Northwest Florida -

If you're a current or even a former college student you may want to listen up, because your personal information may be compromised. The Florida Department of Education says records at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville have been breached, and the effects may be far reaching.

On September 24th, a handful of employees in the college noticed that fraudulent charges were appearing on their statements. Weeks later, the number of people potentially affected has ballooned to nearly 300,000.

"I just think it's crazy that they actually got into kids records and files and stuff like that," said local college student Robert Palo.

Wednesday night, officials got word that a security breach at Northwest Florida State College Between May 21st and September 24th has potentially compromised the information of thousands of Floridians.

"I want to express that on behalf of the college and our leadership here, we certainly thoroughly regret that this happened," said Cristie Kedroski, Vice President for University Advancement at Northwest Florida State College.

A tally of the damage shows 3,000 employee records were affected, along with 76,000 of the college's student recordss. The biggest number comes from bright future scholarship recipients. 200,000 eligible candidates from the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years may be affected.

"It's a common practice for the financial aid office to download the entire Bright Futures Scholars report of those students that have been identified as Bright Futures Scholars," Kedroski said.

Now sensitive pieces of information could end up in the wrong hands. Kedroski says for students, that includes social security numbers, birthdates, ethnicity, gender. As for those 3,000 employees...

"Date of birth, social security number, and in a separate file [they] had access to the direct deposit checking account information," Kedroski said.

Students statewide are being put on alert. Locally, Gulf Coast State College says they haven't detected any breaches and students says overall they feel like their information is pretty safe.

However, they say the incident shows how much faith they put into the system.

"Whatever the college asks, we just give them that information," said local college student Kyle Gray. "We hope that they try to protect it at the greatest ability they can...so we're trying to put trust in them.

Authorities say if you notice anything suspicious or feel you are a victim, take these steps, courtesy of the Florida Department of Education below:

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). Affected persons may also call the local sheriff's office and file a police report of identity theft, keeping a copy of the police report.
  • To protect themselves from the possibility of identity theft, they may also place a free fraud alert on their credit files. A fraud alert notifies creditors to contact individuals before opening new accounts in their name. Call any one of the three major credit reporting agencies at the numbers below to place a fraud alert and receive letters from the agencies with instructions on how to receive a free copy of their credit report.
    • Experian – 1-888-397-3742
    • Equifax – 1-888-766-0008
    • TransUnion – 1-800-680-7289
  • Information about the incident is available at www.nwfsc.edu/security/. Students who have attended or are attending Northwest Florida State College should contact the college for more information. Bright Futures scholars from 2005-06 and 2006-07 who attended other Florida colleges or universities may call 1-800-688-0656.