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The Network of Penn State University Goes Offline Due to Cyberattacks

Securityweek.com reported on 15th May, 2015 stating that Penn State University recently announced that it has closed down the Internet network of its college of engineering due to two cyberattacks.

According to an announcement by the University, FBI alerted the institution on 21st November, 2014 about a cyberattack of "unknown origin and scope on the College of Engineering network by an outside person."

Penn State engaged a private security agency to investigate the incident which has confirmed that at least one of the attacks was carried out by a threat actor from China who has used advanced malware to attack systems of the college.

Softpedia.com reported on 15th May, 2015 quoting Eric Barron, President of Penn State, as saying: "It looks that the invader had gained access to the network around two years ago in 2012 and many affected machines contained personal identifiable information like Social Security Numbers."

Softpedia.com published news on 15th May, 2015 quoting Nick Bennett, Senior Manager of security firm Mandiant which investigated the breach, as saying: "Sophisticated and advanced cyber attacks like this are difficult to detect and are often linked to international threat actors and are 'the new normal'. No organization or company like world's leading banks, retailers, energy companies and educational institutions are immune and have been targets and will be targets."

Penn State said that while no research data seems to have been stolen, the attackers could harvest account credentials of user and a collection of 18,000 Social Security numbers was found on one of the infected PCs. The school is processing to inform those whose Social Security numbers were collected.

Chinese hackers have targeted other U.S. engineering schools before which include Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of California-Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology among others.

The Wall Street Journal published news on 15th May, 2015 quoting Zhu Haiquan, Spokesman of Chinese Embassy, as saying "Chinese laws prohibit cybercrimes and China has made "great efforts" to fight these cybercrimes."

He added: "Cyberattacks happening across countries are difficult to track and hence it is difficult to identify the source of attacks. Jumping to conclusions and making imaginary accusations are not responsible and are counterproductive."

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