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Group says it hacked systems at 100 major universities

Jaikumar Vijayan | Oct. 4, 2012
A hacking group that calls itself Team GhostShell this week claimed credit for breaking into servers at 100 major universities from around the world, including Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan.

The compromised information did not include credit card information, Social Security Numbers or bank information, the blog added.

Aaron Titus, privacy officer at Identity Finder, said that based on the company's evaluation, the breach is not very serious.

"The quality of the leaked information is not very sensitive. It is very diverse, but sometimes there's no sensitive information at all," Titus said. "But I hasten to add that for any one person, the exposure of their username and password can be devastating."

Titus said that all of the leaked information appears to have been culled from small departmental servers and subdomains.

All of the attacks on the university servers appear to have been SQL injection attacks. "The output of the attacks suggest a very straightforward SQL dump. That is very typical of SQL attacks," he said.

No central university server appears to have been breached, according to Identity Finder's evaluation. The intrusions once again highlight the unique challenges that many universities face in protecting data, Titus noted.

"Universities are very decentralized. Every department is its own fiefdom. Academic freedom means these entities make their own rules," even around information security, he said.

As a result, it's not unusual to find sensitive data often stored on numerous insecure departmental servers across a university, he said.

 

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