Valdosta State University in the US state of Georgia has been hit by a data breach that exposed the social security numbers of up to 170,000 students and staff.

It claimed that it was hit by an external hack over two weeks ago to a breached server that contained employee and student information.

An incident was initially detected on the 11th December last year, according to Joe Newton, director of information technology at Valdosta State University. However it detected that unauthorised access dated back to a month before on 11th November 2009.

Then, it said it was investigating an incident of unauthorised access to a computer server, which contained student and faculty social security numbers and grades.

Regarding this newly reported incident, Newton said: “An initial investigation has found no evidence that any personal data was accessed or transferred. The breached server was secured and removed from the network. We are continuing the investigation with assistance from University Police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.”

He said that the university is in the process of contacting all individuals whose information might have been exposed, and said that the university regretted the incident and was reviewing and revising its procedures and practices to minimise the risk of another reoccurrence.