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EVANSTON - Northwestern University is attempting to contact about 4,000 students and applicants after it was discovered that files containing their personal information had become available online, the school said Friday.

The personal information was stored on a computer at the Integrated Graduate Program in the Life Sciences, the school said in a statement. The names and other data were for people who attended or applied to the program from 1991 to 2007.

The breach was recently discovered and the affected computer has been shut down, according to the university's statement. It did not specify when the security breach occurred or how much time elapsed before it was discovered.

A message seeking further comment was left at the school after business hours Friday.

The university recommends that anyone who provided Social Security numbers to the Integrated Graduate Program during the specified time contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. The precaution is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.

The school also said those affected may want to ask credit bureaus to issue fraud alerts on their accounts.

Last spring, hackers broke into nine desktop computers at the school's Office of Admissions and Financial Aid that held the personal information of about 17,000 students and applicants.

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