UNSW targeted by hackers

Server intrusion attacks began in December, the university is investigating.

The University of NSW (UNSW) has confirmed that it was subjected to a number of intrusion attacks against its servers by unidentified hackers during December 2012 and January 2013.

According to a UNSW spokesperson, the hacking commenced with scanning of the university’s network on 19 December.

“The first successful intrusion occurred on Christmas Day and that server was shut down on Boxing Day,” the spokesperson said.

Further attacks occurred during December and early January 2013. These were detected by staff on 3 January who shut down 25 affected servers and suspended a number of user accounts on 5 January.

“Staff directly affected by those [25] servers were advised immediately.

“Since then all staff have been notified. UNSW is progressively changing all staff passwords, including those for email accounts.”

According to the spokesperson, most of the affected servers were brought back online during the week beginning 14 January. UNSW operates a total of 1600 servers.

The spokesperson added that there is no indication the hackers succeeded in causing loss or damage to UNSW.

While no groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, the university has engaged external experts to assist in the forensic investigation.

“We will await the conclusion of the forensic analysis before forming a view on the source,” said the spokesperson.

The attack follows an incident which occurred against the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) in November last year where a hacker known as Darwinare managed to steal passwords stored in plain text.

Students at ADFA apply to the Defence Force and to UNSW Canberra, which runs the academic side of ADFA's operations in Canberra.

According to the UNSW spokesperson, there is “no evidence” that the attack on UNSW Canberra in 2012 was related to these new incidents.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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