Records of 25K students, 2,500 employees hacked in South Carolina

LANCASTER COUNTY, S.C. --

When Geraldine Watson read the letter from the Lancaster County School District on Tuesday, her jaw dropped.

"We really were surprised to see that this was really happening," Watson said. She's one of thousands of parents and grandparents who are receiving the letter, alerting them to the theft of personal information for up to 25,000 students, former students, and 2,500 school employees.

Two weeks ago, a computer-monitoring branch of the Department of Homeland Security noticed a large amount of information being gathered from computers in South Carolina. They contacted the state education department, and it was determined that the computers were part of the Lancaster County School System.

The breach gave hackers access to phone numbers, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

"I think that's terrible, because if somebody can go in there and get your information, I mean, that's dangerous," Watson said.

Renee Horton also received the letter. "I was very surprised, concerned for the fact that this is confidential information," she said.

There is no evidence yet that any of that information has been used illegally. However, the letter to parents explains the breach, and urges them to keep an eye on bank accounts and credit card transactions, even though school computers do not store any financial information.

School safety director Bryan Vaughn said hundreds of school computers are being wiped clean and re-imaged, both at the district office and on several other campuses.

Right now, they're trying to find out how the attack happened. It was "possibly through an email, possibly a website somebody visited, we're not sure," Vaughn said.

Finding out who's behind the attack will be very difficult. "It could be anywhere. It could be any place in the country, or any place in the world," Vaughn said. "The chances of us being able to find out who did this may be slim, but what we can do is react in an appropriate way."

Parents like Horton hope that the district will stay in close contact with parents if any new information surfaces.

"I’m hoping that the school will get back in touch with us, and notify us of things that change," she said.

School officials are also concerned about the cost. It could cost the school district $15,000 or more to make sure all the computers are safe. That's money that isn't budgeted, but must come from somewhere.

Parents who have questions about the stolen data are asked to contact the school's computer security task force at 803-416-8822.

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