Computer Crime Research Center


Hacker Break-In

Date: May 23, 2005
Source: Business Week
By: Francesca Di Meglio

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is investigating a recent security breach on its computer network. This comes just weeks after at least 119 people used instructions first posted on BusinessWeek Online's forums to hack into and view confidential online admissions information at numerous top MBA programs, including Harvard Business School. However, David Keown, Kellogg's chief information officer and assistant dean for information technology, says there's no reason to believe the two hacking incidents are related.

On Mar. 20, while most students were away on spring break, Northwestern University's IT department noticed that two Kellogg servers were sending anomalous traffic onto the university network. The IT group blocked this traffic from the broader network and alerted Kellogg.

Investigations uncovered hacking activity on multiple computers and also revealed that the hacker had most likely gathered user ID and password information from the Kellogg domain. No reports have yet surfaced of unauthorized use of personal information as a result of the security breach, says Keown. "It's often very hard to tell what the original motives of attacks like these are. However, our investigation has identified patterns of the hacker's behavior that suggest the servers were not targeted to obtain personal information," he adds.

The school responded by disabling the password for anyone who had an account in the Kellogg domain, which includes about 500 faculty, 3,000 students, and 14,000 alumni. The IT unit worked through the night as students returned to campus or called in to create new passwords, so they could access their accounts and check e-mail. The alumni-relations group is also creating new passwords for the former students who were affected. Kellogg has hired an outside firm to review security measures and a forensics team to look into this particular intrusion.

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