Unpatched Symantec flaw leads to university data breach

An unpatched flaw in a Symantec Corp. anti-virus management console resulted in the compromise of a server containing the names and Social Security numbers of nearly 45,000 students at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The students, enrolled at the university from 2002 to present, are presently being notified about a potential compromise of their information as a result of the breach, according to a statement posted on the school's Web site.

The breached server belonged to the Academic Advising Center of the University's College of Arts and Science. According to Dan Jones, director for campus IT security, the intrusion was discovered May 12 by the university's security staff when the compromised server started scanning other Internet-connected systems, including those on campus, for the same Symantec flaw. The vulnerability in question was a previously disclosed flaw for which Symantec had already issued a patch, but which the Advising Center had not applied.

It is not clear if the compromised server had been infected by another similarly infected system or had been deliberately broken into, Jones said. None of data on the system appears to have been compromised in the incident but the university is alerting affected individuals all the same in keeping with its notification policy, Jones said. He added that no other servers appear to have been infected.

The infected server was taken offline following the discovery of the breach, and all applications needed by the Advising Center were brought up on another server that is being managed by the university's central IT organization, Jones said. Measures are also underway to bring all IT operations at the Arts and Sciences Advising Center under the control of the central IT department, Jones said. The move is part of a broader effort under which distributed IT operations across campus are being centralized, he added.

In addition, the university is continuing with its efforts to purge Social Security numbers from all CU-Boulder computers in all departments. The university is also making available new host intrusion-detection software to campus IT administrators, according to a statement on the school's Web site.

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