Audit Follows Attack on FSU Computers

Campus-wide audit will follow intrusion into university's financial management server


A campus-wide audit of computers at Florida State University will start this month after hackers gained access to two servers on the campus but did no apparent damage, FSU officials said Tuesday.

"We have not had a single person indicate they have had a problem," said Browning Brooks, an FSU spokeswoman, after hackers found their way into computer servers belonging to the FSU Foundation and an internal financial-management server.

Larry Conrad, associate vice president and FSU's chief information officer , said the attacks came from off campus and that FSU police were investigating the incidents.

No suspects have been identified, Conrad said.

Joe Lazor, director of university computer systems, said the intrusion into the financial-management server was found in mid-July, and illegal access to the foundation computer was discovered in the second week of August.

Both intrusions were discovered during routine monitoring procedures, Conrad said.

Brooks said about 27,000 names of young FSU alumni were in the foundation computer and may have been exposed to the hackers.

She said the exposed files were not the entire alumni data base, which contains about 450,000 names.

Conrad said the names involved were heavily encrypted, and there was no indication the names had been tampered with or accessed.

"We sent a letter to all the young alumni telling them their files had been exposed" to an attack by a hacker, Browning said.

Conrad said it could not be determined whether any data were gleaned from the financial management server.

He said both servers were replaced, the data were reinstalled, and newer firewalls and other forms of protection were installed on the new servers.

Lazor said it appeared in both instances the hackers were using FSU computers to store large files, the most common reason for most hacker attacks.

College campus computers generally have a lot of room to send large files over the Internet, making them attractive targets, Conrad said.

Hackers generally find a way to gain access to a large computer by stealing someone's password or identity, then installing a "kit" in the system that provides entry for the hacker but remains invisible to people using the server.

"They put big files on our computers," Conrad said, "and we don't see them until they (open) the file."

He said attacks on the FSU computer system - there are more than 20,000 computers on campus - have become more common and more complex in the past five or six years.

The latest attacks have "Joe and I fundamentally rethinking computer security for the entire campus," Conrad said. "We are rethinking our approach," he said.

(c) 2005 Associated Press