Nearly every student at Indiana University had their identity stolen last week.
A recent security breach at IU resulted in the theft of personal data from more than 146,000 Hoosiers and recent graduates, according to a Chicago Tribune report by Jon Herskovitz. Data stolen included the names, addresses and social security numbers of these students and alumni.
Left in a vulnerable location for more than 11 months, the information was eventually discovered and stolen by several malware programs working in conjunction to uncover sensitive information. Jointly, such programs are referred to as "webcrawlers."
Addressing rumors regarding the nature of the theft, IU stated: "The information was not downloaded by an unauthorized individual looking for specific sensitive data, but rather was accessed by three automated computer data-mining applications, called webcrawlers, used to improve Web search capabilities."
A website and assistance hotline was set up by the university for any students concerned that their information may be put to ill use.
Given the serious nature of the theft, UT students are left questioning the safety of their own data.
Bob Hillhouse, Tennessee chief information security officer, seemed confident in UT's ability to maintain a sense of security.
"There's not a higher risk because of the IU incident," Hillhouse said, maintaining that the Indiana mishap will have no effect on the University of Tennessee's ability to prevent theft of student personal information.
Hillhouse admitted, however, that in the real world of data theft and hacking, unfortunate incidents can and will occur.
"You can't prevent people from making mistakes," he said. "It's something we live with constantly."
For some individuals across campus, worries and concerns of unprotected information remain a present worry. Freshman computer science major and Haslam Scholar Anagha Uppal said she feels the threat of a security breach is very real and that those entrusted with sensitive data should be prepared.
"Sure, it is unethical for programmers to misuse their knowledge by stealing some of this data," Uppal said, "but universities like Indiana University have an even bigger responsibility to protect information we trust them with."
Dave Melando, sophomore supply chain major, expressed similar feelings.
"I have a great concern for it," Melando said. "Your personal information is everything, and a simple set of numbers can ruin you."
Ultimately, as Hillhouse said, preparation and awareness are the only course of action available to prevent digital theft.
Hillhouse added: "We live with that risk."