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[ISN] 'Picky' thieves take only list of clients
By Karen Wong
January 04, 2008
PICKY thieves have led one private education centre to believe that
industrial espionage might be the motive for a recent break-in.
Early this week, three of the CES group's computers - containing the
personal details and contacts of its 30,000 students - were stolen from
its Eu Tong Sen Street office.
Surprisingly, 10 other computers in the same location, some of them
newer than the stolen items, and other expensive equipment like scanners
were left untouched.
The thieves' specific choices have led CES group chairman Desmond Lim,
35, to suspect that they could have been looking for the information
stored in these computers for business reasons.
'They could be potential customers for them,' he said of the students.
And the thieves seemed to know what they were doing. They took one
computer from the administration room and the other two from the
And while the computer stolen from the administration room might have
been the oldest, it was also the only one with all the students' data,
said Camford Business School principal Indra Padmakumara, 30, whose
school is part of the CES group.
The other three computers in that room were not taken, she said. Nor
were they tampered with.
The door to Mr Lim's room was forced open, although a brand new
projector, a digital camera and a box full of coins, all lying within
plain view, were not taken.
The CES Group has some 40 branches in Singapore and Malaysia, and its
schools include those under the Camford, Cambridge Language School and
Pusat Bahasa Titian Jaya banners.
Police are investigating the break-in, which happened sometime on Sunday
night or Monday morning.
The theft was discovered by two of the school's operations and
Miss Law Laiping, 20, said she and a colleague had locked up the
premises on Sunday night. When they came to work at 9.35am on Monday,
they noticed that the chain on the front door was missing.
They alerted a security guard and found the drawers in the
administration room broken into and a computer missing.
Mr Lim said the group's main business since 1997 has been language
schools, an increasingly competitive business. Its school here also
offers business courses.
'It is very competitive here. And even more so in Malaysia,' said Mr
When pressed, he revealed that the group made about $80million in sales
Most of its students are working adults from Malaysia and China.
Miss LM Chu, 25, a part-time student from China enrolled in the school's
English course, is worried her personal details may fall into the wrong
Police spokesman Lim Tung Li said investigations are on.
Ms Indra said the school has since installed a burglar alarm and is
putting in a CCTV system.
Databases are kept confidential
SCHOOLS here treat student databases as highly confidential and keep
them secure as they can be used by competitors to entice students away.
The chief operating officer of the Asian Centre for Professional
Excellence, MrJurgen Rudolph, said: 'The student databases are saved in
a secured network and only the IT personnel have control of the network.
'The student databases require a password for viewing, which only the
administrator-in-charge can give.
'The server room used by the IT personnel is locked at all times and
even internal staff members are prohibited from entering it unless they
have proper authorisation.'
He said the student databases contain particulars of students in or
applying to the school and competitors can use this information to
entice students away.
When contacted, a spokesman for the SIM Group which runs SIM Global
Education and SIM University, said: 'At SIM Group, we treat student
records as highly confidential.
'Strict processes and tight security policies are put in place to
protect our student records.
'Our application systems and databases are stored in our data centre,
which is a secured area accessible only to authorised staff.'
She added that online access to student records is given only to UniSIM
or SIM operational staff directly in charge of the programmes, and hard
copies are kept locked.
'Online access to systems such as the student portal are secured, so
that students can only access their own records.'
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