The University of Virginia is notifying 18,700 students that their Social Security numbers were accidentally printed on address labels of health insurance brochures, U.Va. spokesman McGregor McCance said.
``The university certainly regrets that this exposure occurred,'' McCance told The Daily Progress ((http://bit.ly/15necUW)V ) in an email.
Aetna Health Care sent the open-enrollment brochures to students' homes through a third-party mail vendor. The university provided the Social Security numbers and other information to Aetna, which provides student health insurance at U.Va. and more than 190 other schools across the nation.
Aetna spokeswoman Cynthia Michener said the insurer learned of the security breach earlier this week. She said the mail vendor is one of several used by Aetna but declined to identify it.
"We are working with UVa helping to notify the students,'' Michener told the newspaper. ``We are trying to do the right thing.''
The student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, first reported the breach. One of the editors, Andrew Elliott, was among the students who received a brochure.
"It's definitely easily visible if you know what you're looking for,'' Elliott told The Daily Progress. ``It isn't separated by the little dashes, but it still looks like a Social Security number.''
Affected students will be provided free credit monitoring services, McCance said.
``Our focus is on notifying those affected, providing them information regarding credit monitoring and assistance and ensuring that such an incident will not occur again,'' McCance said.
There have been several previous security breaches at the university, including the disappearance of a hand-held device from the University of Virginia Medical Center last December. The device, which is similar to a smartphone, contained medical and personal information of patients treated by Continuum Home Infusion between August 2007 and last September.
Another incident occurred in June 2012, when up to 350 students' transcripts were accidentally posted to a U.Va. website. Some of the transcripts contained Social Security numbers.