updated 1/29/2004 2:50:01 PM ET 2004-01-29T19:50:01

Federal and state authorities are investigating whether hackers gained access to Social Security and credit card numbers for at least 20,000 University of Georgia students and applicants, officials said Thursday.

So far, there has been no sign that the hackers used any of the information, school spokesman Tom Jackson said.

The university learned of the breach last week when it was notified that its server was being used to probe other computers in the United States and abroad, the university said. The server was immediately taken offline.

Jackson said its server security was up to date and the school could not have done anything more to prevent the breach.

"These are criminals, they're trying to circumvent security and were successful," he said. "It just does happen. This one happened to get into a particularly sensitive server."

School officials were working Thursday to identify affected students and advise them to warn credit reporting agencies and credit card companies that their numbers may have been compromised.

The university estimated that all affected students had applied for admission since August 2002.

Provost Arnett Mace said the school does not believe any academic data used to evaluate applicants was compromised, and it did not expect the breach to effect the admissions process.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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