Uncertainty looms over the security lapse in the condemned Life Sciences Building last week.
On Friday, ABC Action News aired a video of a person entering an unlocked room in the building and rummaging through files that they claimed contained sensitive student paperwork, such as social security numbers and banking information.
When the news agency investigated the lapse, the television crew found the room containing the information was still unlocked.
However, the timeline presented by ABC Action News conflicts with a statement from university officials.
In response to the news report, the university released a statement stating officials did not know how the person gained access to the secured facility or how anyone obtained entry to the locked room on the second floor where the files were stored.
According to the university, security routinely checked the building and confirmed the doors were locked at 11 p.m. on Thursday and 7 a.m. on Friday.
However, according to ABC Action News, the anonymous source filmed the video on Monday and the film crew found the room still unlocked during the day on Friday.
“We don’t know if the building was open when (the person who shot the video) got in there,” said University Police (UP) Assistant Chief Chris Daniel. “All we can go on is the information provided to the media outlet.”
USF Media and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman said ABC Action News is protecting the name of the individual who sent the video from university officials and police.
Daniel confirmed that UP has not had contact with the individual who alerted the media.
“The key point here is no one should have had access to that facility or tried to get in there,” Freeman said. “We don’t know how this person or these people did so. We don’t know why they were there.”
Daniel said UP is hoping that if they can speak with the individual who found the unlocked room, that person could shed more light on the circumstances surrounding the security lapse.
“Unfortunately, they opted not to follow, what we call, the proper protocol by contacting the university instead of going straight to the media with it,” he said.
UP will continue to investigate whether the tipster broke into the building or whether the door was previously unlocked.
“It would be good to talk to them to get those details,” Daniel said. “Otherwise, we have to go through an elaborate investigative process.”
According to ABC Action News, their team confirmed the documents in the unlocked room contained personal information.
The exact nature of the contents and what will be done with that material is part of the ongoing investigation.
“I didn’t get to see all the documents, but there were a couple that had some personal information on them,” he said. “It has been minimized to the best of our ability.”
Daniel said the documents were taken to another location and secured. The university will notify any students affected by the breach.