Cal Poly informed approximately 7,000 current and former students that their names and Social Security numbers had been breached due to a worm that penetrated the campus telephone-billing computer system.
"We are erring on the side of caution," said Tim Kearns, Cal Poly's chief information officer. "We have had no indication anyone had access to student information, though there was a worm on the system and anything is possible."
The infected system contained personal information on students who lodged in the residence halls and had a campus telephone account between the years 2001 and 2005.
In response to the recent explosion of identity theft, Cal Poly is revamping its personal information security systems.
"For the last few years, we have been going through a system upgrade that will allow us to move away from using Social Security numbers as identifiers," Kearns added. "We will use a random nine-digit identifier assigned to students. We are also reevaluating all of our security practices to make sure this doesn't happen again."
If people are concerned about identity theft, there are a number of government web sites they can visit, including the California Attorney General's Office at www.caag.state.ca.us/idtheft/tips.htm, the Federal Trade Commission at consumer.gov/idtheft, and the California Office of Privacy Protection at www.privacy.ca.gov/cover/identitytheft.