Database breach raises concerns over Web security

In August a computer hacker broke into a North Carolina Community College System server and potentially gained access to the personal information of 51,000 library users across the state.

The cyber break-in was deemed harmless by investigators in the wake of the event, but it left behind glaring questions about the security of personal information on the Internet.

According to N.C. Community College officials, the perpetrator accessed the library patron information in August via a computer server housed in the community college system office in Raleigh by decoding a user password.

An initial investigation revealed that 8,300 driver’s license numbers, originally collected by 18 colleges to help identify library users, were stored on the server. However, an ongoing review of the incident revealed that an additional Social Security numbers of 42,500 library patrons were also stored on the breached server, including the information of patrons from Haywood Community College and Southwestern Community College.

Ryan Schwiebert, IT director at SCC, explained how the breach affected the college.

“As a college we stopped using social security numbers quite some time ago,” Schweibert said. “The social security numbers that were jeopardized in the breach were left in the library’s system from two years ago.”

Schwiebert said the state’s community college library server is an “open facing” system, which means it can be accessed via the Internet. He said best policy dictates that private information be maintained only on servers that don’t allow that level of access. For instance, the SCC’s student information database is secured on a server protected by layers of firewalls.

“That type of server would be very difficult for a hacker to access without being caught,” Schwiebert said. “Even for one of our own people.”

In the wake of the security breach, N.C. Community College officials notified 51,000 library users from 25 community colleges that a security breach had occurred on a computer server containing their personal information. While reviews and investigations after the event indicated that the hacker had not accessed any personal information, state and federal privacy laws dictated that the college system inform all of the users who had potentially been affected by the breach.

Forty-six community colleges that participate in the Community College Libraries in North Carolina consortium maintain information on more than 270,000 library users on this server. The security breach was discovered Monday, Aug. 24, during a routine security review and was reported to the state’s Information Technology Service at that time. Students potentially affected weren’t notified for another four months.

SCC gaming management program takes off

Wanda Morris walked into uncharted territory when she started teaching Gaming Management Technology three years ago at Southwestern Community College.

“We were the first community college in the state to offer the program so we took our chances thinking outside the box,” said Morris. “In fact, very few four-year colleges even offer the program.”

At the college’s graduation ceremony Tues., Dec. 15, the first graduates of SCC’s program will receive their certificates.

Gaming is a big business with a certain lure of 24/7 excitement as blackjack tables whirl and slot machines hit jackpot.

To design a college program that accurately represented the professional field, Morris called on experts like Ron Hager, who has more than 25 years experience in the gaming industry. Hager, who came to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino from Caesar’s in Indiana, gave the students an overview of the different games like craps, roulette and cards. Then he took them into Harrah’s training center to practice dealing and playing with professionals.

“I knew if I was going to bring that same sense of excitement to the classroom that the classroom sure wouldn’t be typical,” Morris said.

Harrah’s director of marketing Leeann Bridges-McHattie instructed the class in planning a marketing calendar. Students learned the customer service end from Greg Galloway of Harrah’s. They learned about job descriptions and job analysis from Jo Blaylock and Tina Vaitkus, who talked about how many job descriptions will change as a result of the casino’s ability to serve alcohol.

Other courses in the program dealt with gaming law and regulations, accounting and controls, gaming facility management and social issues in gaming.

For more information, call Thom Brooks, SCC dean of career technologies, at 828.586.4091, ext. 202.

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Tribe, area colleges collaborate on art degrees

By Sarah Kucharski • Staff Writer

Officials with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Monday unveiled plans for a new Associate in Fine Arts degree focusing on Native American art to be offered in collaboration with Southwestern Community College.

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