Alum Charged With Hacking Into Texas A&M

A recent graduate of Texas A&M University is charged with hacking into the school's computer system and illegally accessing information on 88,000 current and former students, faculty and staff members.

Luis Castillo must appear before a magistrate judge Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said Castillo, who graduated in December with a computer science degree, accessed the system in February and caused more than $5,000 in losses to the university. The school had to hire extra staff to minimize damage.

Castillo was charged with felony reckless damage to a protected computer and could face as many as five years in prison if convicted.

Castillo, who has not been arrested, couldn't immediately be reached for comment Thursday. A person at a listing for a Luis Castillo didn't return a message, and officials at the College Station campus said they didn't have a current address for him.

In late February, A&M officials detected a breach in a server that contains log-ins and passwords used by students, faculty and staff members, said Pierce Cantrell Jr., vice president and associate provost for information technology.

The passwords could be used to access e-mail, campus wireless access and a link where students can view their records online, Cantrell said. The log-ins are also used by faculty members for e-mail, course management and grade books.

Social Security numbers and bank account numbers were not accessed, and the breach did not allow entry into the school's financial system or payroll, officials said. No unauthorized changes to the records have been found.

The university has added safeguards to the system.

Meanwhile, the University of South Carolina was looking into what it called an "accidental disclosure" of private student information on the Internet, school spokesman Russ McKinney said Thursday.

The school in Columbia is trying to determine exactly what type of information was released, how long it was on the Web and who might have accessed it, he said. The breach involved 1,482 students, he said.

A year ago, the university warned 6,000 current and former students that some of their personal information might have been accessed by an intruder into the computer system in September 2005.


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