Mt. Hood Community College photo-ID computer stolen from Maywood Park campus

The ‘public notice’ of this computer security breach was buried – literally – on the obituary page of the big Sunday paper. See what school officials have to say …

This former schoolhouse, serving now as the Maywood Park Campus for Mt. Hood Community College, is the location from which the ID information computer was stolen.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It is understandable that an institution of higher learning – Mt. Hood Community College – would prefer that it receive little publicity regarding an incident in which a computer, loaded with data used to produce student identification cards, was stolen sometime in the first week of September.

A month after the incident, the school’s administration informed the public of this potential security breach by placing a “Public Notice” advertisement in the daily newspaper, and local community papers, on the weekend of October 4.

We hadn’t heard of the theft that occurred at the college’s Maywood Park Campus, located at 10100 NE Prescott Street.

We couldn’t believe it when a sharp-eyed reader told us their ‘public notice” was buried – literally and actually – amid death and funeral notices last Sunday’s OREGONIAN, until we saw it for ourselves.

Here’s how Mt. Hood Community College’s “Public Notice” appeared in the paper.

The text of the Public Notice:

Important Notice for Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) ID Holders

On or around September 8, 2008, a computer used for issuing photo IDs was stolen from MHCC’s Maywood Park Campus. The computer contained the following information: names, birth dates and MHCC identification numbers from approximately 1995 through 2005. No other information was stored on the computer, and most importantly, no Social Security numbers or addresses were stored there. Initial findings from the investigation indicate that this is an isolated incident.

Because MHCC is committed to protecting the integrity of its constituents’ personal information, and the College is taking this situation very seriously, and is reviewing its data security processes and procedures throughout the institution to ensure that the situation never happens again, and is informing its constituents.

According to the Oregon Identity Theft Protection Act of 2007, the information stored on the stolen computer does not constitute personal information.  Individuals with questions about identity theft should contact the Oregon Department of Consumer Business and Services at 503-378-4100 or http://egov.oregon.gov/DCBS/.

For more information, please visit the MHC see Web site at http://www.mhcc.edu/, click on the Quicklinks drop-down menu and select “Data Security.”  Thank you.

School officials comment
Our first call regarding the situation was to the college’s president, Dr. John “Ski” Sygielski, who confirmed that the photo-ID computer was, indeed, stolen from their outer East Portland campus.

“I didn’t know that the Public Notice ad was run in the obituary section,” Sygielski told us. “Mike Wolfe and his team are handling this. He’s in a meeting in Salem; I’ll ask him to call you as soon as he can.”

While we’re accustomed to getting the “brush off” from officials – Dr. Sygielski apparently acted on his promise. Within the hour, we received a call from the school’s Chief Operating Officer and administrative VP, Michael D. Wolfe.

“In 2005, we were testing photo-ID software,” Wolfe explained. “We were doing a ‘beta test’ run with a test sample set of data to see how the system performed.”

Because they were testing software, the computer wasn’t hooked into the school’s database, and thus the hard drive of the stolen computer contained a limited data.

“We intended this ad to run in the ‘public announcements’ section of the newspaper,” Wolfe assured us. He declined to comment further, but added that this incident has prompted the school’s administration to carefully examine the policies, procedures and systems used, to ensure that personal data is kept secure.

Our suggestion: If you were a student of the college in the ten years listed, you may want check your credit report just to make sure an ID thief hasn’t found a way to utilize the pilfered information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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