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Computer Virus Compromises Employees’ Social Security Numbers

A virus causing computer security breach in February 2009 leaked out the Social Security numbers (SSN) of thousands of employees of the Penn State OPP (Office of Physical Plant), an OPP representative stated.

An OPP communications coordinator said that the virus was downloaded from the Internet, though unknowingly, on an OPP administrative PC on February 20, 2009, while the Security Operations and Services of the IT Services of OPP notified the Office about the incident on March 2, 2009.

The report states that the SSNs relating to 1,000 beneficiaries who were the staff members of the OPP might have landed into the hands of online thieves.

However, OPP says it is anxious to safeguard the information of its employees. Therefore, it decided to notify those whose SSNs were in the stolen file and also to alert them about the security breach. No information of any identity theft has been reported so far.

Paul Ruskin, Spokesman of Physical Plant, said that during 2005, Penn State stopped using SSNs for purposes of identification because of the information's vulnerability. But the computer still had older files, as reported by centredaily on March 18, 2009.

Commenting on the lost file, Ruskin said that it was seemingly only one, which got exposed. According to him, there were possibly 10,000 files on his computer, while there were some 600 computers at the Office.

In addition, Ruskin said that possibly an e-mail with a malware-infused attachment infected the system. According to him, the picture was not clear and one could only speculate, while the problem represented a nationwide issue.

However, authorities removed the infected PC that had been routinely used at the Office. Further, OPP is right now checking all its other computers to make sure that no other folder with SSNs exist on them.

Eventually, according to security experts, virus attacks on computers have been frequently occurring in schools, universities as well as government offices. In early March 2009, a computer worm knocked out the complete network of the Sullivan County Government Center and Sheriff's Office, infecting some 140 PCs.

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