By Jaikumar Vijayan
April 4, 2008
Windows systems may be the most frequently attacked by malicious
hackers, but they certainly are not the only targets.
Serving as the latest reminder of that fact is Antioch University in
Yellow Springs, Ohio, which recently disclosed that Social Security
numbers and other personal data belonging to more than 60,000 students,
former students and employees may have been compromised by multiple
intrusions into its main ERP server.
The break-ins were discovered Feb. 13 and involved a Sun Solaris server
that had not been patched against a previously disclosed FTP
vulnerability, even though a fix was available for the flaw at the time
of the breach, university CIO William Marshall said today.
The university was alerted to the breach while IT officials were
investigating a separate virus that had also infected the system and was
broadcasting obscene material from it, Marshall said. That particular
virus was programmed to broadcast the material on the 13th of every
month and was detected by the university's antivirus software, when it
started doing so on Feb. 13, he said.
"When we went in and did a further investigation, we found that there
was an IRC bot installed on the system," Marshall said.
According to Marshall, the university ERP system, based at Antioch's
main campus in Yellow Springs, appears to have been breached on three
The first break-in occurred June 9, 2007, when intruders gained remote
access to the ERP server via the unpatched Solaris FTP vulnerability.
"The first one was an automated attack. It happened very, very quickly,"
Marshall said. The IRC bot discovered Feb. 13 appears to have been
installed on the system one day after the initial intrusion, he said.
Forensic analysis shows that the third time the server was illegally
accessed was Oct. 11, 2007, Marshall said.
As far as the university can tell, the data on the server appears not to
have been illegally downloaded or copied by the intruders, he said.
Following the discovery of the intrusions, the infected server was taken
offline, the data on it was backed up and the operating system was
reinstalled from scratch, Marshall said. "That's the only way we can be
sure that we got everything on it that shouldn't be there," he said.
The compromised server contained information on current and former
students and employees across all of Antioch's six campuses going back
to 1996, Marshall said.
The system also contained information on individuals who had applied to
Antioch but may have never attended the university and information on
vendors who may have supplied their Social Security numbers in order to
get paid. The compromised data included names, addresses, Social
Security numbers, telephone numbers and academic records.
Notices informing the affected individuals about the breach and urging
them to take measures to protect against ID theft were sent out last
week, Marshall said. There are a couple of reasons for the delay, he
added. First, the university needed at least two weeks to understand the
full scope of the breach, and the university did not want to compromise
investigations by law enforcement authorities by disclosing the breach
prematurely, he said.
The main lesson from the intrusions is to make sure that patches get
installed in a timely fashion whatever the environment, Marshall said.
Just because Windows systems get patched and attacked the most often is
no reason for getting complacent about security on other operating
systems, he said.
Subscribe to InfoSec News