updated 1/23/2005 2:23:16 AM ET 2005-01-23T07:23:16

A computer hard drive missing from the University of Northern Colorado contained personal information about thousands of employees and their families, the university has said.

UNC officials said Friday the missing equipment includes the names, birth dates, Social Security and bank account numbers and other information about employees’ beneficiaries as well as about 15,790 current and former workers.

The total could be more than 30,000 people, officials said.

University officials said they do not know whether the drive was misplaced or stolen, but campus police have launched a criminal investigation.

UNC President Kay Norton said the chances the drive was merely lost grow slimmer as the days go by and it does not appear.

“So we have to assume the worst,” she told a meeting of university employees Friday.

University officials said it would take specialized hardware and programs to read the information but they declined to elaborate.

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