Think the unthinkable: imagine there was a breach in your business intelligence system allowing world-wide access to your most sensitive data.
Note that the MBA admissions ApplyYourself breach lasted only about 9 hours – yet look at the damage and scandal this brief breach has spawned.
As a BI professional, you’ve developed and published data providers that contain a trove of confidential and strategic data that competitors and hackers would love to have. Don’t wait for the the embarrassment of an audit or a disastrous scandal to take responsible action.
- By acquiring a logon id, could a competitor learn about your sales to key accounts?
- It was an insider who published the ApplyYourself hacking instructions – how would you detect it if someone posted hacking information about your company to a web bulletin board – would you like to be notified first by the news media, or a key customer?
- Could an employee with hacking instructions acquire salary data? How would you know?
- What have you done to monitor possible breaches?
- Do you have a rapid response plan in effect that if there is a breach, it is immediately closed?
- How much damage could be done, and how quickly?
- Does your company have a technology insurance policy, and have you complied with its anti-hacking provisions?
- Has your ETL encrypted or masked account data, such as checking account numbers?
- Have you configured newsreaders to crawl the internet for suspicious breach search “strings” or taken other measures?
Hacker helps applicants breach security at top business schools
Among the institutions affected were Harvard, Duke and Stanford
News Story by Linda Rosencrance
MARCH 04, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) – A computer hacker helped applicants to some of the nation’s best business colleges and universities gain access to internal admissions records on the schools’ Web sites.
Using the screen name “brookbond,” the hacker broke into the online application and decision system of ApplyYourself Inc. and posted a procedure students could use to access information about their applications before acceptance notices went out. The hack was posted in a Business Week online forum mainly frequented by business students, said Len Metheny, CEO of the Fairfax, Va.-based ApplyYourself.
About 400 colleges and universities use the admissions management system, which is hosted and managed by ApplyYourself, to manage their admissions workflow. But only about a half-dozen schools use the decision management module, which allows individuals to determine if they have been accepted to a particular school, Metheny said.
The affected schools include Harvard Business School, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and business schools at Dartmouth College, Duke University and Stanford University.
“What the procedure did was it allowed an individual student who had an application filed at some particular schools that are using our decision management module to input certain parameters and allow them access to the admission-decision page prior to when that school intended it to be published,” Metheny said.
If a school had no admission-decision information in its database, the student instead got only a blank page. About 150 students tried to execute the procedures to access data from among those half-dozen schools; the vast majority were met with a blank screen, he said.
“We were notified by e-mail by somebody who saw a posting on a Business Week forum that went out there around 12:15 a.m., March 2,” Metheny said. “We immediately moved to make modifications to our admissions management system to close access through the published procedure that was put out there.”
Those modifications went into effect at 9:50 a.m. EST on Wednesday, Metheny said.
“So there was approximately nine hours that there was access to the specific page,” he said. “This did not grant access to the general database or to other people’s information — the person could only log into his or her admissions account. It was his or her specific decision information that was available.”
After ApplyYourself became aware of the breach, it immediately contacted Harvard Business School and, very shortly thereafter, the other schools. Metheny said this was the first time ApplyYourself’s systems have been compromised.
Harvard Business School spokesman David Lampe said the school found out about the problem when an applicant called to say there was a breach in the system. “We found out shortly after midnight on Wednesday, March 2, and as I understand it, it wasn’t fixed until after 9 a.m.,” he said.
Lampe said more than 100 people used the procedure to break through to the secure area during that time. In some cases, decisions had been posted, in some cases, not, he said.
“One of the problems is that no decision is final until March 30, so it’s hard to say if what they saw was the final decision or not,” Lampe said. “All decisions will be announced to the applicants on March 30.”
He noted that school officials know the identities of the people who tried to break into the system. “We will say that this casts a new light on their applications, and we take ethical breaches very seriously. To us, breaking into the system or following a procedure to break into the system is similar to breaking a window to get into someone’s house — or put another way, if the cash register is open, you don’t put your hand in the till.”
Business Week was notified of the posting to its forum at the start of business March 2, said spokeswoman Kimberly Quinn. “We immediately took the posting down and then monitored the site for any other similar postings,” she said, adding that Business Week deleted postings that sent readers to other sites where the hacker’s procedural was posted.
“We made an initial request with Business Week the morning of March 2 to remove that particular published script — they did so, and we have not had any further contact with them,” said Metheny. “We haven’t yet been in touch with law enforcement. We’re researching the data and the sequence of events at this time, and we’ll make a decision shortly on how we’ll procedure.”