Breach, Threat Management, Data Security

Harvard grad school site hacked, files distributed on BitTorrent network

The website of Harvard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) apparently was hacked on Monday, with some of its database files made available on a peer-to-peer file sharing network by someone who said they wanted to “demonstrate” the alleged lack of security on the university's server.

The attacker posted what purported to be four files from the GSAS site on the BitTorrent P2P network. The files were then listed on the Pirate Bay, a site that tracks torrents, information files that administer content downloads from BitTorrent users.

The hacked files were described in the posting as a backup file for the GSAS site server, a joomla.sql database file for the site, a contact list from the database, and a file described as “other minor things.”

The database file posting was accompanied by a grammatically incorrect statement, which announced that the attack was intended to demonstate the lack of security of Harvard's server, and specifically questioned the competance of Harvard's systems administrator.

“This is a backup of We have released it because we want demonstration the insecurity of harvard's server…Maybe you don't like it but this is to demonstrate that persons like [administrator of the server] in they don't know how to secure a website.”

A separate file accompanying the site file release, labeled password.txt, contained the message “stupid people, you don't use a secure password.”

The GSAS website went offline on Monday and was not restored as of Tuesday afternoon. Harvard's media relations office did not return a call requesting comment.

News that a website for America's most prestigious university had been hacked was reported around the world. People's Daily Online in China took special note of the fact that Harvard's website had been attacked on “U.S. Presidents Day.”




Get daily email updates

SC Media's daily must-read of the most current and pressing daily news

By clicking the Subscribe button below, you agree to SC Media Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.