Theft alert after 'gang' strikes

September 29, 2000

Universities and colleges have been warned to be on their guard after thieves broke into Edinburgh University and stole expensive computer hardware.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England advised institutions to check their security, insurance and business resumption arrangements in the wake of a series of "professional" computer thefts. A memo from Hefce's chief auditor, John Rushworth, revealed that thieves had also broken into Bradford, Manchester and Dundee, targeting Sun Microsystems servers.

The Edinburgh theft, which took place earlier this month, was the second such incident at the university within five months.

Edinburgh University provides computing services for the Joint Information Systems Committee, which was affected by the theft.

Martin Price, executive secretary of the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association, said: "Manchester and Edinburgh provide national database services. When they're hit, the whole community is affected."

He said that Ucisa had sent a note to its members drawing attention to the incident. But he added: "Directors of services have to find a balance between security and access for students."

He speculated that the thefts could have been aided by insiders.

Police believe that the thefts are the work of a single gang, who sell the machines to offshore pornography websites or former Soviet Union countries that are subject to US technology export bans.

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