Stolen Berkeley Laptop Recovered, 100,000 Identities Erased - InformationWeek

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9/16/2005
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Stolen Berkeley Laptop Recovered, 100,000 Identities Erased

No related cases of identity theft have yet been reported, and the university is saying this appears to be a 'simple' case of someone just wanting a laptop.

A laptop stolen in March from offices at the University of California, Berkeley contained identities of nearly 100,000 students has been recovered, the school announced this week, but it's still unsure if the information was accessed or used.

Forensic analysis of the notebook showed that the drive had been reformatted and a new operating system installed since its theft, making it impossible to know if the identities, including Social Security numbers, had been either viewed or illegally used.

The university was optimistic, however, that the data was not put to use.

"Nothing in [the UC Police] investigation points to identity theft nor individuals involved in identity theft. It appears that the intent was simply to steal and sell a laptop computer," the university said in a statement.

The laptop made a cross-country journey when a San Francisco man, identified by the San Jose Mercury News as Shuki Alburati, 18, sold the computer to an unnamed man in South Carolina through an online auction. Alburati, who allegedly bought the laptop for $300 and sold it for $1,600, has been charged with a misdemeanor and is due back in court Sept. 30.

According to the university, Alburati's description of the woman from whom he bought the PC matches that of a woman seen leaving the campus's Graduate Division offices on March 11 with the laptop.

Alburati purchased the laptop on April 14, placed it up for sale April 19, and sold it April 22, the university's timeline showed. The unidentified South Carolina man has not been charged.

"Since the time the laptop theft occurred, campus police have learned of no pattern of identity theft or credit card fraud involving those individuals with names and Social Security numbers on the Graduate Division computer," the university said.

After the theft was disclosed, the school tried to notify as many of the 98,369 as possible via U.S. Mail and e-mail.

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