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Hacker Attacks Otago University with Scam E-Mails

A hacker's attack on the computer system at Otago University has prompted a police investigation into an e-mail scam there, as reported by NewstalkZB on April 16, 2008.

The hacker infiltrated the system in March 2008 and used it to distribute hundreds of personal e-mails, purportedly from the head of a department.

Professor Vernon Squire, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Sciences, Otago University, said that he sent out a message on March 8 to all the recipients saying that the fake e-mails were an effort to discredit Professor Brent Hall, dean of Otago's School of Surveying. He further wrote that another surge of similar e-mails was expected as reported by stuff.co.nz on April 16, 2008.

People who were recipients of the scam e-mail included inmates of the University of Waterloo in Canada, where Hall was earlier employed, and some industry professionals of New Zealand.

According to sources associated with the school, the e-mails talk about various sensitive subjects such as research grants, evaluation of thesis papers, salary amounts, including exact figures, and staff recruitment and resignations. The e-mails also include character judgment of employees.

Brigid Feely, Communications Manager of University of Otago, said on April 15, 2008 that since the issue had been notified to the local police, it wasn't the right time to reveal any detail, as reported by stuff.co.nz on April 16, 2008. Feely, however, said that the university was naturally worried that the e-mail security of a member of the staff was compromised.

Feely also assured that vigorous systems had been deployed to avert such breaches in future. He said that the police was now aware of the issue and was conducting an investigation.

Meanwhile, the other stream of e-mails has attacked many other colleges in the recent few weeks. Prominent ones among them are Indiana University and North Carolina State University. The e-mails purport to arrive from the colleges' system administrators and ask recipients to provide sensitive information like their passwords.

In similar news, in 2006, 4,000 faculty members, students and other staff could not access the server of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences because a hacker pulled it down by spamming bulk messages from a hijacked e-mail account.

Related article: Hacker & Virus in MySpace

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