University-owned laptop with student data stolen

According to a staff member, not all University computers are encrypted.

Justin Horwath

Elizabeth Beaumont  and the political science department recently got a taste of technology’s paradox: Convenience sometimes complicates matters.

While in Palo Alto, Calif., a perpetrator stole a laptop in Beaumont’s possession that belonged to the political science department – out of a locked car. She is an assistant professor in the department.

According to an e-mail from department chair and Regents’ professor John Sullivan to students enrolled in Beaumont’s classes dating back to fall 2005, the information on the laptop included student names, e-mail addresses, University identification numbers and grades.

“I, of course, feel horrendous about it,” Beaumont said. “I’m assuming there’s not going to be any detrimental effects on my students.”

The files containing student data were not encrypted at the time of the theft. It is University policy to protect all nonpublic, electronic information through encryption.

According to the director of the office of information and technology, Ken Hanna, not all laptops and personal computers belonging to the University are protected through encryption.

“The laptops are a security issue, of course,” he said. “They’ve got a process afoot to do the encryption. They’ve got the product Ö it just hadn’t been done yet.”

He said the policy requiring that all private, electronic data be protected has “been on the books for quite some time.”

The e-mail also stated that Social Security numbers, credit card information, bank account numbers, birth dates and other data that might be used for identity theft was not stored on the computer.

It was assumed that the thief was interested in the computer itself, not the data stored in it, according to the e-mail.

This isn’t the first time unprotected student information has gotten into someone else’s hands.

Last August, someone stole a personal computer from an office in Lind Hall. The computer had private data stored on it that wasn’t protected, including thousands of student and alumni Social Security numbers.

Hanna said last Friday about 20 to 30 percent of the laptops in the political science department were wholly encrypted. He said plans are to have them protected by the end of summer.

“The problem with encryption is it takes quite a bit of research and knowledge as how to use it so you don’t get in a situation where you encrypt the data and can’t get it back,” he said. “We wish we could do everything all at once, but there’s just so many thousands of them so it’s a difficult situation.”

Former Daily employee Tricia Woellert, who was enrolled in one of Beaumont’s classes and received the e-mail, said she’s not concerned about the computer theft. She graduated with a journalism degree in May.

“I’m not too worried about somebody seeing my grades,” she said. “Encrypting the computers would be a good step to take.”

Four unknown suspects attack student

It was around 3 a.m. Saturday when Robert Johnstone, 28, decided to take a break from his video game and walk to the BP gas station a few blocks from his residence on Eighth Street Southeast.

He walked right into his four attackers, thinking nothing of it.

“As best as I can recall they kind of converged around me. It was almost like a practiced routine,” he said. “They were all wearing the same clothes and they basically ganged up on me and attacked me and took my wallet.”

Johnstone, a continuing education student who said he has felt safe in his four years of living in the area, had no serious injuries.

Johnstone tried to escape the attackers, but they landed a few punches, took his wallet and fled.

“It was almost like breaking a tackle, but it didn’t quite work that way,” he said.

Minneapolis Police Lt. Amelia Huffman said the suspects are still at large.

“I’ll probably be more careful when I walk around the neighborhood, especially at night,” he said. “It’s a big deal, but it’s not a huge loss.”

He said there was no money in his wallet.

Car flees after hitting bicyclist

A vehicle making a right turn onto Eighth Street Southeast sideswiped Amy Andree, 27, of Minneapolis on Saturday morning. The driver fled the accident scene, according to a police report.

She was biking across Thirteenth Avenue Southeast on her way to work when she was suddenly thrown on the hood of the vehicle.

Andree said Monday she had a black eye but sustained no serious injuries.

A brake on her bike hit her in the eye and momentarily blinded her, leaving her unable to make her way to the sidewalk, she said.

“I was disgusted, angry,” she said. “(The driver) just kind of left me laying in the middle of the road.”

Andree described the vehicle as a white ’93 or ’94 Chevrolet Cavalier, but did not get any plate numbers. The woman driving the vehicle had brown hair, Andree said.

According to Huffman, hit-and-run accidents are not uncommon – especially involving two vehicles – but there have been no fatalities this year.

“People on bikes should be cognizant of the fact that, right or wrong, in any disagreement between a bicycle and a car, a car is going to win hands-down every time,” she said. “And drivers should slow down.”

She said no arrests have been made.