News in Brief

Computers containing 10,000 SSNs are stolen from Dean’s Office

Over 10,000 current and former students, faculty and staff had their Social Security numbers compromised in July following the theft of two Yale computers.

The computers were stolen from the Yale College Dean’s Office on July 17, resulting in one of many privacy breaches at universities nationwide. University officials said the computers were password-protected, and were probably stolen to be sold rather than for the data stored on them. Although Yale officials said the risk of identity theft is low, the University sent letters to the individuals whose personal information may now be at risk.

A review of back-up tapes after the theft found files on the two computers that included names and Social Security numbers — but no financial account information — for about 10,000 current and former students and approximately 200 current and former faculty and staff members.

So far, none of the contacted individuals has reported any misuse attributable to the lost data, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said last night.

“The University does not believe that this incident presents a significant danger of identity theft because the crime was almost certainly aimed at obtaining hardware for sale — not at exploiting the data that were on the computers,” the University said in a statement, adding that purchasers of stolen computers usually wipe the hard drives so as to hide their origin prior to resale.

The University sent letters to the affected individuals recommending that they check bank statements and credit reports, and set up a team to answer questions about the breach.

The files had not been kept for any specific purpose, Conroy said, but were overlooked when the University culled unnecessary files containing personal information. Administrators are taking steps to ensure that any remaining files containing Social Security numbers are either eliminated or encrypted, according to the statement.

Yale is far from the first university to have personal data lost or stolen. Of the more than 200 major data breaches tracked by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse so far this year, about 60 have occurred at educational institutions.

Even before the recent breach, Yale officials expressed concern about the risk of losing private information when interviewed earlier this year. Chief Information Officer Philip Long said Yale’s strategy to minimize that risk was to collect less personal information than the University had in the past. As part of that strategy, Yale replaced SSNs with University-generated identification numbers.

—Steven Siegel

Yale Health Plan will fund HPV vaccine

Starting this September, the Yale Health Plan’s Prescription Plus program will include coverage for Gardasil, the human papillomavirus vaccine, as well as several additional vaccines.

Director Paul Genecin said Yale University Health Services reevaluated its coverage for all vaccines this spring, focusing on a wide range of services, not just Gardasil. The organization faced repeated student criticism last year for not covering the HPV vaccine, including a petition campaign spearheaded by the student group Colleges Against Cancer.

“We seek to be consistent in our coverage of classes of services, not just particular new drugs, vaccines, tests and treatments,” Genecin said.

Gardasil was introduced in June 2006.

Genecin said this fall, the HPV and other vaccines covered under the Prescription Plus program will be subject to a $100 deductible and a 20 percent copay.

Students who waive the Prescription Plus coverage are still subject to the full cost of the HPV vaccine, which is estimated at $180. Students who meet the deductible will pay about $100, he said.

Prescription Plus is offered to students who also elect the Yale Health Plan’s Hospitalization/Specialty coverage, Genecin said.

“I hope that students will get the HPV vaccine as well as the other vaccines that are recommended to keep them as healthy as possible,” he said.

Axel Schmidt ’09, a Peer Health Educator who leads workshops for incoming freshmen informing them about Yale’s health resources, said he is proud of Yale for making a responsible public health decision, particularly because students have been anxiously awaiting it for over a year.

“Providing incoming freshmen with all the information about how to access the vaccine will be a new part of our talk this year,” Schmidt said. “I think the student body has waited a long time for this and will be very glad to hear that Yale has decided to cover the vaccine.”

Students said they are pleased to hear about the enhancement to the Prescription Plus program and hope the University will be effective in spreading the word about the additional coverage so that students can take advantage of the new offerings.

“I think it’s great and about time that Yale [covers] the HPV vaccine,” said Jillian Roland ’09. “Now we need to make more students aware of this.”

HPV is a sexually transmitted virus transferred through genital contact, including vaginal and anal sex, as well as skin to skin contact. The Gardasil vaccine protects against strains 16 and 18, which cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers, and types 6 and 11, which cause about 90 percent of genital warts.

The deadline for students to make changes to their Health Plan enrollment is September 15th.

— Kanya Balakrishna

Hamden man’s death after Taser incident ruled to be the result of a drug overdose

The death of a Hamden man who died shortly after being subdued with a police stun gun last spring was the result of a drug overdose, the state’s chief medical examiner has ruled. The death had raised questions about the safety of such stun guns just as the New Haven Police Department was planning to deploy them.

David Mills, 26, was shot with a Taser early in the morning on April 21 after he punched, kicked and bit officers who were attempting to detain him for fighting with another man, the police said. He was pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital about an hour after the incident.

Mills, who told police he was on angel dust, died of PCP intoxication and “excited delirium,” an agitated condition in which the body goes out of control, according to the medical examiner’s office. The death was ruled accidental.

Mills’ mother, however, has said she believes the police killed her son. And “excited delirium” has generated controversy in recent years as a cause of death, with some civil liberties groups claiming the condition may not actually exist and may just serve as a cover for police brutality.

But two investigations into Mills’ death exonerated police of any wrongdoing, the Hamden police announced last week. An internal investigation and a criminal one both found that the officers who subdued Mills acted appropriately and followed departmental procedures, the police said.

The NHPD’s Tasers, meanwhile, were deployed to officers in July. The department purchased a total of 50 stun guns earlier this year as part of a pilot program suggested by the city’s Deadly Force Task Force last fall and subsequently approved by the Board of Aldermen.

—Thomas Kaplan

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