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More than 900 current and former employees of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources have been offered identity theft protection after a laptop containing their personal information was stolen overseas.

Thieves made off with the laptop of a consultant who helps manage IANR's employee retirement benefits while that individual was on vacation in Italy, UNL said in a news release.

While the names, Social Security numbers, home and email addresses and financial account information on the laptop were password-protected, they were not encrypted, leaving UNL employees vulnerable.

The consultant notified UNL Police as well as authorities in Rome about the theft.

"The security of our employees' personal information is among our highest concerns," said Mike Boehm, vice chancellor for IANR. "We're going to thoroughly review our processes to determine what happened here and the appropriate steps moving forward.

"In the meantime, our priority is taking care of our employees," Boehm added.

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UNL has hired Michael Best, a Wisconsin-based law firm, to help manage the situation, and sent letters to those who could potentially be affected by any data breach.

"There was no evidence that employees' personal information was the target of the theft or that personal information was misused in any way," said NU spokeswoman Melissa Lee.

But out of an abundance of caution, UNL sent the notification letters and has offered one-year of identity theft protection through Experian IdentityWorks.

IANR employees who choose to enroll in the identity theft protection program will be covered by the university at $9 per person, Lee said, for a potential total of $8,100.

Boehm said IANR employees should also routinely check their credit reports to see if any accounts have been opened in their name and immediately report suspicious activity. Employees should also review financial account statements for anything out of the ordinary.

"We urge our colleagues to report any suspicious activity on their accounts, and to take advantage of the identity protection services we are offering out of an abundance of caution," Boehm said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7120 or cdunker@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @ChrisDunkerLJS.

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