Pitt among Dozens of Universities Targeted by Hackers

By Erdley, Debra | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

Pitt among Dozens of Universities Targeted by Hackers


Erdley, Debra, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


University of Pittsburgh officials on Thursday said the school was among more than 50 research universities around the world whose information files were posted online by an anonymous group of hackers calling themselves Team GhostShell.

The group dubbed its data release -- posted online at Pastebin.com -- Project Westwind. Team GhostShell, which infiltrated university servers at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Penn, Cambridge and the University of Tokyo among others, said it wanted to draw attention to shortcomings in higher education around the world. No vital information was compromised, analysts said.

"We wanted to bring to your attention different examples from Europe, how the laws change so often that even the teachers have a hard time adjusting to them ... to the U.S., where tuition fees have spiked up so much that by the time you finish any sort of degree, you will be in more debt than you can handle," the hackers wrote.

Aaron Titus, chief privacy officer for IndentiFinder, a New York data-loss prevention company, analyzed the data drop. He said it contained information such as dates of birth, marital status and citizenship, but not Social Security or credit card numbers.

"None of the (universities') core systems were hacked. They were all obscure tertiary systems some professor had set up under low security and forgot about," Titus said.

Titus said the time stamps suggested the hackers spent several months scanning and downloading information.

Team GhostShell said many of the university servers were infiltrated with malware -- software used to disrupt services or gather information -- by the time it breached them.

Penn spokesman Stephen MacCarthy said the Philadelphia school notified students and faculty of the breach on Wednesday. …

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