December 12, 2006

US uni hacked for a year

by Brian Turner

Security

The University of California, Los Angeles, has sent out warnings to nearly 1 million students and staff that their personal details may be in the hands of criminal gangs.

It comes after the discovery that the UCLA’s central database had been hacked into since October 2005 – and the intrusion wasn’t discovered until the end of November this year.

It is unknown just how much information may have been used – but as the database contained Social Security numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, and other contact details, the potential seriousness for those concerned cannot be underestimated.

So far the scale of the issue makes it the single largest security breach on a higher education institution to date.

The UCLA is keen to promote the seriousness with which it is treating the issue, and online security in general.

However, university computers in the USA are commonly hijacked and used as Open Proxies by malicious users, often to send email spam.

A key complaint for this is that university IT staff try to keep their servers more open for use than would normally be acceptable in professional business networks.

Overall, the warning is clear – where any significant storage of personal and confidential information occurs, significant security measures are required. And that includes constant security monitoring.

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