UVa Website Faces Hacker Attack

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

April 16, 2013

Visitors to the University of Virginia home page Monday night got a surprise when logging on.

Hackers overtook the site, redirecting people to their apparent Twitter profile, @R00tTh3B0x.

"Obviously, we knew we couldn't just ask them straight up, 'Who are you?' said Kaz Komolafe, the editor-in-chief of the Cavalier Daily who had a Twitter conversation with the hackers Monday night. "They aren't going to offer that information up lightly since there carries a huge weight to what they're doing."

In a Twitter conversation with the Newsplex on Tuesday, an apparent hacker tweeting from the R00tTh3B0x account said they're not doing this for fame.

"Hacking is a hobby and something that we enjoy because it takes skill to do it properly," the RTB representative said.

"It seemed to be kind of aggressive," Komolafe said. "They were very anti-establishment, very much, 'We can do what we want to do, you can't control us.'"

In tweets from RTB on Monday night, the hackers referenced a Newsplex story from March 19 about a group of UVa. researchers who were awarded a $40,000 grant from the Virginia Innovation Partnership to work on hacker-proofing the Web.

"We see this has happened at other places, and the closer to home that it hits, the more we want to be able to defend against it and it makes our work feel that much more important," senior researcher Jason Hiser said.

The irony is that the researchers have nothing to do with any operation of virginia.edu.

"It's a bit of an unfair fight in the sense that the hackers, or the attackers, they only have to find one loophole. We have to defend against all of them," senior researcher Anh Nguyen-Tuong said. "So it makes our job that much harder."

The incident, though, was enough to worry some members of the university community.

"It's a symptom of more serious attacks that could have happened," Nguyen-Tuong said.

And still, there are many questions left unanswered.

"I guess that was probably their intention. They wanted to keep people confused because they didn't want people to know who they were and really why they were doing it to UVa. specifically," Komolafe said.

University officials say they're continuing to investigate the incident, adding that no personal or confidential information has been compromised.

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