Identity Theft 911 looks at identity theft in educational environments

In its latest newsletter report - Academia at Risk - the free service examines a growing problem that it claims makes American universities easy targets for hackers and identity theft.

Since 2005, data breaches at major institutions such as the Univ. of Miami, UCLA, Univ. of Fla., Ohio Univ., USC, Berkley-Calif., Boston College and others have affected more than 6.6 million personal records.

The report looks at universities' information architecture and how their culture of both openness and `turf protection' can leave important personal information exposed, which again can lead to identity theft.

It also, the company said, lays out solutions for institutions as well as personal identity protection advice and tips for students.

The University of Notre Dame offers a prime example for responding to a large data breach.

Dave Seidl, the university's director of information security, said that his team knew that it had a lot of networks, but didn't know everything that was out there. "The breach showed everyone just how little security there really was."

The report - which is available on the Identity Theft 911 Knowledge Center web portal - includes the following tips for university and college students:

  • Your Social Security number is like a key for identity thieves who can use it to open up all kinds of accounts in your name, so do not give it out to anyone.
  • Avoid Facebook quizzes that open the door on your personal info to the quiz developers.
  • Use strong passwords comprised of numbers, letters and symbols and change them often.
  • Treat your laptop as if you know its going to be stolen. Use the password-prompt on start-up and shut it down for the night.
  • Use firewalls, anti-virus software and regularly update them.
  • Obtain your annual free credit reports from each of the credit bureaus and review them frequently.

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