In safe hands?

After the names and Social Security numbers of 100,000 former U employees were hacked last year, administrators say they are making significant progress in securing student and personnel data.

While no cases of identity theft were linked to the incident, specialists said the system breach was a “wake-up call” for the university.

A report released last week by the Utah System of Higher Education found that while state institutions have made progress in securing student information, more work needs to be done to bring some schools up to speed.

The results of the survey show most Utah schools aren’t conducting sufficient background checks on employees who handle student records and that most schools are not addressing at least one security issue in 19 suggested areas.

Responses to the survey were kept anonymous because officials said they wanted schools to feel open about how they responded to the questions.

Despite trouble in the past, administrators at the U said the school is doing more than most state schools to keep information safe.

“We’re right on top,” said Kevin Taylor, director of planning and policy for the U. “We err sometimes on the side of non-access.”

Taylor said the U has made considerable pushes since 2005 to educate its employees about the safe handling of data.

“What people do individually with data is often the biggest threat to security,” Taylor said.

Corey Roach, a U information security specialist, said the “black eye” the campus received over the 2005 breach has encouraged U officials to take greater security measures.

Along with the survey, the USHE security committee released a list of eight recommendations for Utah colleges to follow to improve their security processes–Taylor said the U is currently meeting or could meet all the recommendations except one.

He said the report calls for remote storage facilities so records are preserved in a disaster such as an earthquake or fire. The U is currently working to establish record facilities in Richfield.

Stephanie Hansen, a senior transfer student from Utah State University, said she thinks the U is doing a better job of protecting student information than most other colleges.

Hansen, a consumer and community studies major, said Utah State didn’t assign student identification numbers and instead used students’ Social Security numbers. She said the policy has since changed.

“That freaked out a lot of people,” Hansen said, “because that number is everywhere.”