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Salem State says database was breached

Twenty-five thousand current and former staff and student workers at Salem State University may have had their personal information compromised after a virus infiltrated a school database, officials said.

Though the school is not aware of anyone’s data being used maliciously, the administration determined it was best to notify all parties possibly ­involved, said Tom Torello, vice president of marketing and communications.

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“We just wanted to be careful and let them know the possibility is out there that their ­information could have been compromised,” he said.

The school’s virus software detected the Feb. 19 breach as it occurred, Torello said. Once ­detected, the school brought in forensic experts to address the breach; the school then notified those affected, he said.

A letter from the university president was sent March 11 to all 25,000 people with information in the computer database, which is run through the university’s human resources ­department, Torello said.

He said that to the best of his knowledge, the database ­includes only current and former staff and student workers.

Brian Shaughnessy, a 1984 Salem State master’s program graduate, received the letter from the president in the mail Thursday. He said he did not ­recall working at the university, nor ever applying for a job there.

“With all that’s been in the news lately, it’s unsettling to ­receive a letter like that,” Shaughnessy said.

Torello said Salem State worked with Experian, a credit information company, to provide an identity protection subscription free for a year to those affected and to help them ­assess further steps to protect their personal information. ­Experian did not immediately return a call for comment Friday afternoon.

Shaughnessy, a Kennebunk, Maine resident, said he was considering registering for the identity protection program.

Though it appears no one’s information was compromised by the data breach, Torello recommended enrolling.

“This is such a common occurrence,” he said. “Salem State’s just one of the ones on the long list” of organizations falling victim to data breaches.”

Lauren Dezenski can be reached at lauren.dezenski@
globe.com.
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