Part of the Bay Area News Group

Roof-scaling burglars hit central office

By Katy Murphy
Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008 at 12:55 pm in investigations, OUSD central office.

Oakland schools just can’t seem to shake these computer-pilfering thieves — and the latest offenders might be wandering around with the Social Security numbers of the district’s new hires. Here’s a version of a Web story we posted just now:

Late last night, thieves broke into the Oakland school district’s human resources offices and stole as many as 12 computers with the personal information of an estimated 100 new hires.

Police believe the burglary took place around 11 p.m. Tuesday night; it was reported around 7:30 this morning when employees began to arrive, said district spokesman Troy Flint.

The thieves appear to have climbed onto the roof in the rear of the building, cut the wire outside the windows and entered without triggering the alarm system, Flint said. The desktop computers were swiped from the cubicles in the center of the office.

Read the rest of the story here.

Are there simple security precautions Oakland Unified could take, in your opinion, to safeguard its equipment and employee information from criminals?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • cranky teacher

    This sounds professional. Those computers can’t be worth that much by themselves. Sounds like they wanted the data.

  • Brian MacLeod

    I’m someone who knows one of the new hires. I have this to say:

    Stuff happens. You are judged not on the fact that stuff happens but how you act when it has happened. These new hires are part of the future of Oakland schools and should be accorded proper protection.

    I hope the district is arranging for credit monitoring services to flag any misuse of their data. At least a years worth but better two years. If misuse happens, the district should be proactive in supporting the new hires when it comes to shutting down the problems and cleaning up their credit reports. You don’t want their resume to read “came to Oakland, got my data stolen, left Oakland.

    Oh, and why was this data sitting round on computers anyway? It could be taken off the computers each night and removed on a disk to a safe or another facility. Might take all of ten minutes each evening for a few administrators.

  • http://www.sanleandrobytes.com/ Mike Katz-Lacabe

    As a School Board Trustee and computer security consultant, I think that one thing that OUSD could have done to prevent their current problem is to encrypt the information. It’s a safe bet that the computers that were stolen were running Microsoft Windows XP, which has built-in encryption known as Encrypting File System (EFS). The newer Vista operating system comes with BitLocker, which functions similarly. With this properly configured, the data would be safe from the thieves that stole the computers.

    There are many low-cost and free alternatives to safeguard this data as well: TrueCrypt, which is free and can encrypt the entire hard disk. GPG is free and can encrypt sensitive files. PGP is about $100 per computer and can encrypt entire disks or files.

    However, with strained budgets and few IT people, most districts don’t have the resources to get their heads above water and undertake such simple steps to protect data.

  • Sue

    Mike,
    You might not be able to answer this, but I’m going to ask anyway.

    Do you know if the district could use *experienced* parent volunteers to solve some of the data and IT problems? My husband and I have been in the field since the early 80′s, and we’d love to help if we could.

  • http://www.sanleandrobytes.com/ Mike Katz-Lacabe

    Sue,

    Every district is different, but nearly every district would benefit from reliable and knowledgeable volunteers. However, I think that most districts would be hesitant to rely on volunteers for protecting their sensitive data. But there may be other areas where they would be willing to accept help.

    There are other issues to consider as well. Union contracts may play a role as well if the volunteers are doing things that should be handled by their employees.

    I would suggest that you contact the administration at your district, express a desire to volunteer in areas where you have expertise, and see what happens. You can ask at the school site or at the district office and you may get different answers.

    Good luck and thank you for your willingness to help out!

  • John

    I had a dream during which I overheard a conversation among the Oakland thieves who acquired those OUSD computers. One of them said, “Look at all dim buttons in front of dat TV. How we gonna be watchin cartoons on dat!?”

    I think Sponge Bob’s private information is safe.

  • Pingback: The break-ins continue - The Education Report - Katy Murphy covers what’s going on in the Oakland schools

  • Pingback: Busted: Three custodians found with stolen property - The Education Report - Katy Murphy covers what’s going on in the Oakland schools