Software glitch reveals loan data

The Education Department said that up to 21,000 student loan borrowers who may have had their personal information viewed on the Federal Student Aid Web site will receive credit monitoring.

An Education vendor, Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, which will provide the credit monitoring for one year, was responsible for a software glitch during a routine software upgrade, said Education spokeswoman Jane Glickman.

The data breach occurred from Sunday evening through Tuesday morning as student loan borrowers, who already had loans and personal identification numbers to access them, may have seen another person's information as they were managing their accounts, she said.

The personal information included name, birth date and Social Security number, and possibly account data. The site contains information for federal direct student loans.

'We have disabled the Web site and will not put it back up until it is 100 percent fixed and certain that it won't happen again,' Glickman said.

The affected 21,000 student borrowers account for less than half of 1 percent of the 6.4 million users of the site.

The vendor did not return messages.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chair of the Privacy Caucus, criticized the Bush administration for the lax security on its watch. He sought information from Education secretary Margaret Spellings about the impact on borrowers and urged credit monitoring.

'From veterans to on-duty military personnel and now to student loan borrowers, the Bush administration has made breaches of privacy a regular occurrence and a signature of its tenure in Washington,' Markey said in the letter dated yesterday.

In the past several months, a number of agencies have suffered data breaches, including the Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Energy and Navy departments.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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