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UMCP reports another cybersecurity breach

The University of Maryland, College Park suffered a second cyberattack on the heels of the recent theft of personal data for hundreds of thousands of students, staff and alumni, university officials announced Thursday.

Ann G. Wylie, who chairs a newly formed task force on cybersecurity, wrote in a note to the campus community that the personal information of "one senior university official" had been compromised in a breach Saturday.

Wylie said the breach was "unrelated" to last month's cyberattack, in which a database with the Social Security numbers, dates of birth, names and other information of nearly 300,000 was invaded by hackers.

She said the university believes no other information was breached in the latest cyberattack and that the unidentified university official has been notified. The breach was detected the day it occurred.

"Within 36 hours, the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the University's Police Department, working with University's IT security staff, successfully mitigated the intrusion," Wylie wrote.

She said the university could not comment further on the situation.

The university moved a number of its websites offline over the weekend, and Wylie said they were being moved to a more secure server. She also outlined several steps the university had begun in the wake of last month's attack, including changing passwords, auditing for IT vulnerabilities and purging sensitive data records that are no longer needed.

Data security experts without inside knowledge of the incident said that a "swarming effect" can occur after a large breach is made public, and the fact that only one university official was affected made it appear like a deliberate attack.

"The targeting of information pertaining to a specific individual seems far more intentional and deliberate than your average system intrusion," speculated Rodney Petersen, senior policy adviser at higher education information security project SecuriCORE, in an email.

It's also possible that such targeted attacks occur frequently on the university's network and were detected in this case because of the heightened level of alert, said Alan Paller, founder of SANS, a cybersecurity training school based in Bethesda.

The university has been offering free credit monitoring through Experian for those affected by the previous security breach.

cwells@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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