April 22, 2018
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UMS beefs up data security after breach

Bangor Daily News | BDN
Bangor Daily News | BDN
(BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY KEVIN BENNETT) CAPTION The University of Maine's Vice President of Student Affairs Robert Dana, right, reads from a prepared statement on Tuesday, June29, 2010 concerning the March 4, 2010 computer breach at the Orono campus. With Robert Dana is the University of Maine's Associate Director of System Operations John Grover. (Bangor Daily News/Kevin Bennett)
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A data breach last summer of computers at the University of Maine’s counseling center caused the University of Maine System to take steps quickly to ensure that personal information stored on computers at all seven campuses and the system office is secure, the board of trustees was told Monday.

“It is crystal-clear that with advances in technology there is an increased risk to our information being compromised,” Chancellor Richard Pattenaude said.

Trustees were briefed Monday on a proposal to improve the security of data. A recent data scan systemwide showed four areas of high risk and three of medium risk, said Rebecca Wyke, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

“The scan in December showed that 78 percent of our data was clean,” she said.

Costs for the increased data security were estimated to be more than $860,000 a year over the next three years, according to a draft of the system’s Strategic Information Security Plan.

“We must address IT problems when they arise and prevent ongoing vulnerabilities by putting additional protections in place,” Wyke said.

In June, Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said at a press conference that the 4,585 students who visited the counseling center between Aug. 8, 2002, and June 12, 2010, should assume they were in the affected database.

Wyke said Monday that no one’s personal information was breached in June. The cost of dealing with the breach was about $130,000.

In addition to being updated on data security, trustees approved the selection of a vendor for a Web portal, which will serve university students, faculty and staff across the state. The portal also is expected to improve computer security, according to Wyke.

CampusEAI Consortium of Cleveland, Ohio, will expand its Web portal pilot project at the University of Maine at Farmington to other campuses over the next year. The University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine at Augusta will be added in August. Six months later, the four remaining campuses and the system office will be connected.

Startup costs for the portal are estimated at $240,000, and the annual cost is budgeted at $270,000 a year, Wyke said.

A Web portal is a one-stop, secure and customizable Web-based center that organizes information, services and Web links for users, such as links to e-mail, personal schedules, campus calendars, course management software, libraries and other campus services, Peggy Markson, spokeswoman for the system, said after Monday’s meeting. Amazon.com, Netflix.com and other online retailers are examples of Web portals, she said.

“The goal of the portal project is to create an efficient, common platform, and it is an excellent companion piece alongside the development of OnlineMaine, the systems site for online courses and programs,” trustee Kevin McCarthy of Portland, head of the board’s information and technology committee, said in support of the proposal.

Trustees also heard Monday an update on the plan to create an online degree program to be housed administratively at University of Maine at Augusta. The need for the program is being driven by the steady increase in online enrollment at colleges around the nation and in Maine, said Curt Madison, director of distance education for UMS.

Statistics presented to trustees showed that in the fall of 2009, 30 percent of all higher-education students in the country were enrolled in at least one online course. As of fall 2010, 11.7 percent of all credit hours in the system were taken online, a 24 percent increase over the previous year, Madison said.

Students now may take an online course toward a degree from a particular campus, but online degrees alone have not been offered, according to Madison. Theoretically, a person could earn a degree through the program taking online courses originating on all seven campuses, he said.

The program is being designed to attract more students who live near a campus and need to take at least half their courses online because of life circumstances and a new population of students who are not able to come to a campus at all.

Estimates about the final cost of developing the online degree program and revenue estimates, including proposed tuition costs, are expected be presented at the next board meeting, March 14 at UMA.

Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously noted that the new online degree program will be housed administratively at the University College of Bangor. The program will be housed at the University of Maine at Augusta.

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