Schools hacked in international attack should check computers for child porn

A recent global hacking episode could have seen child pornography deposited on school computers.

Thirty-six schools – five in the Waikato – were hacked in a global operation that saw passwords and other entry methods to 70,000 servers sold on the black market. Hamilton’s Deanwell school is one of those and is seeking advice from IT specialists.

University of Waikato cyber security expert Dr Ryan Ko says any hacked school should not just hire an expert, but ask the expert to search for illegal contraband.

The sale, and attacks, were thought to have been conducted by a Russian hacking group and Waikato principals are looking at how better to protect their schools.

Ko likened the hack to the opportunist discovery of an unlocked empty house in the neighbourhood.

After a while you get squatters and then people might start storing illegal things there they don’t want to be caught with.

And in the case of online storage space accessed illegally, contraband, including child pornography, is likely to be stored.

Schools hold sensitive information that you wouldn’t want a third party getting hold of, says Waikato Principals’ Association president John Coulam.

“[The hackers] are after the free resources. They may not be after the [personal] data.”

Ko said schools need to make sure they keep software on their servers up to date and always patched to the latest protection systems.

Ko said it’s not just schools that have to worry.

“Most of the small to medium enterprises are equally affected because they have tight budgets for [cybersecurity].”

He suggested that the Ministry of Education should invest in an insurance policy to clean up any future cyber attacks.

That idea got a thumbs-up from Hamilton Boys’ High School headmaster Susan Hassall.

“We’re all suffering from the same risks, really, so it would be good if we had some combined way of dealing with it,” she said.

“I think the ministry needs to make a concentrated effort to minimise the risks to schools.”

Hamilton Boys’ hadn’t been affected – yet – but is always looking at how to make its system more secure, she said.

And she wouldn’t hesitate to hire an expert if the school were targeted.

Hamilton’s Deanwell School has already called for an expert after a letter from the Ministry of Education saying the school had been affected by the latest hack.

An IT contractor told principal Pat Poland the school might need a $5000 system check or to rebuild the server, and Poland has asked another company for a second opinion and quote.

“As a principal, I want to make sure my system’s secure but I don’t want to spend $5000 unnecessarily,” he said.

“I’m an educator. I don’t know what the potential threats are.”

Most of the school’s critical pupil data is in the cloud, he said.

But when it came to servers, he understood hackers could essentially take the data hostage and force the school to pay to get it back.

Schools have to be extra careful because they hold sensitive information, including medical details and parent contact details, Waikato Principals’ Association president John Coulam​ said.

“You don’t really want a third party getting hold of that.”

He wants to see a minimum standard of protection for school networks and an approved list of network managers for schools that don’t use government-owned company N4L.

His school, Marian Catholic Primary School, uses Telco Technology Services.

He’d had one email from the Ministry of Education, which warned schools to keep firewalls and protection up to date, and to check their systems.

“But what are you checking for?… I don’t know how I’d know if I’ve been hacked.”

HACKING FOR FUN

A Year 13 student at Hamilton Boys’ High School hacks into his school’s computer all the time.

“They sorta don’t mind it now,” James Baker said. “I tell them what to fix.”

He and his teammates Sivaram Manoharan and Christian Richardson competed in the NZ Cyber Security Challenge hosted at the University of Waikato on July 14 and 15.

They named their team JustTiltEm, a reference to the computer gaming term tilting, where you try to win computer games by annoying your opponents to distraction.

JustTiltEm couldn’t really tilt at the challenge, though, because interacting with opponents is against the rules.

It was even against the rules to look at an opponent’s computer. And, of course, it’s against the rules to hack into the scoreboard, too.

The competition started with an online round in which 267 participants from around the country participated.

This was whittled down to a finalist crowd of 150, who were flown in from as far south as Canterbury to compete at the University of Waikato on Friday night.

Flights were sponsored by Kordia, Endace, ASB, Gallagher, Insomnia, and InternetNZ.

They weren’t all high school or tertiary students, either – the competition was open to everybody.

Gallagher software engineer Blake Dawkins has been in the workforce for five years and is part of team Gallagher White Hats, one of three teams made up of Gallagher staff.

“You gotta be careful because if you do it [hacking], you can’t really do it often because of the legal implications of it,” he said.

“[At the challenge] you get to practise those skills in a safe environment where you can’t get prosecuted.”

Competitors had to search for traces of a group of hackers, and then defend their system against them.

Dr Ryan Ko, the organiser of the challenge, says this contest is the only one of its kind in the world, because every action taken by hackers is recorded. The winning team was Team Hodor, of Gallagher Group, composed of Sjoerd de Feijter, Matthew Stringer and Vladimir Petko.

“We can find out how attackers behave and how defenders behave,” Ko said.

“We are trying to do predictive analysis [and ask]: how do we predict upcoming cyber security events?”

Source:http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/82163194/schools-hacked-in-international-attack-should-check-computers-for-child-porn

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