Breach, Data Security

Univ. of Maryland hackers used trojan to steal IT credentials, access database

University of Maryland President Wallace Loh appeared before Senate members to testify on the occurrences leading up to a far-reaching breach.

According to Loh, who spoke Wednesday, hackers masking their identity and whereabouts with the Tor network, infected a university website with a data stealing trojan.

After compromising the photo sharing site, saboteurs were then able to steal login credentials of IT managers at the university, and access a trove of information located in a database – the names, Social Security numbers and university identification numbers of 300,000 University of Maryland students, alumni and staff.

Loh testified at a hearing held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.  Other attendees who spoke included Target's vice president and CFO John Mulligan, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and David Wagner, the president of  identity management security software provider Entrust. Visa's Chief Enterprise Risk Officer Ellen Richey was also a witness.

In a written testimony, Loh said that five years of free credit protection services were offered to all impacted individuals. So far, nearly 30,000 people had registered for the provision, he said.

Steps to improve security at the school, included the university removing all sensitive records, that were no longer required, from the targeted database. The university is also performing a comprehensive review of “all personal information across all databases,” to remove other data.

Loh added that, with the help of university IT security staff, campus police, the U.S. Secret Service, and FBI, another network intrusion which occurred on March 15 was mitigated.

“There was no public release of any information and no damage to the institution, except for the release of personal data of one senior university official,” Loh wrote.

Since the breaches, the University of Maryland created an 18-member task force on cyber security, which includes campus staff and students.

In his testimony, he also detailed other security measures taken up by the school.

“In the past month, [university IT staff and outside consultants] have identified and closed the pathways utilized in the February 18, 2014, breach and the incursion on March 15, 2014, changed the passwords for all databases and applications, and conducted an initial audit to detect vulnerabilities in individual websites within web hosting environments,” Loh said. “Plans have been accelerated to migrate web hosting to a more secure environment.”

An archived webcast of the full Senate hearing is available online, as well as Loh's testimony (PDF).

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