Smiley Face Emoticon Triggers FIU Data Scare

Personal information for 19,500 current and former students may have been accessed by hackers, university informs in letters

Thousands of students at Florida International University are hoping their personal information is not used against them after being informed of a possible security breach of the university's computer system.

An undergraduate education database containing 19,500 current and former students' names, social security numbers, birth dates, and grade point averages was discovered to be unsecured when university officials found someone had typed a smiley face emoticon on the database's internal website.

Students and alumni who took the College-Level Academic Skills Test and other standardized exams during a multi-year period were informed in letters that their personal details may have been "inappropriately accessed."

"This is private business, you know what I mean?" said student Cesar Mejia. "If your GPA is low and you're trying your hardest to get your GPA up, do you really want somebody else to, like, look at your personal information? This is your personal information!"

University administrators have cut off public access to the database and advised affected students to contact a major credit bureau to place a free fraud alert on their file and regularly check accounts for unusual activity.

"We do not know if someone actually took this data, downloaded the data, or is actually utilizing the data," said Robert Grillo, FIU's chief information officer. "It's a precautionary measure for our students and employees, to make them aware."

FIU student Gabriella Nelson knows what it's like to have her personal information stolen.

"Oh my God, it feels bad," she said. "And you have to go through a whole lot of trouble just to clear your name and everything.

Florida International is directing those who received letters to address further questions to a specially designated call center. The number is 855-263-3452.

Contact Us