Hackers target SA universities

Cape Town - South Africa's universities have found themselves the latest victims of vandal hackers, as the websites of four major institutions came under attack.

In a week considered to be the worst yet for IT security at local tertiary institutions, the websites for the University of Stellenbosch, Natal University, Rhodes University and the University of the Witwatersrand all came down.

"I do not think these hacks and defacements suggest a sudden attack on university web sites in South Africa, it rather reflects the general increase in local hacks," says IT legal specialist Reinhardt Buys.

"The initial evidence also suggests that we're looking at international hacker groups and not South African students."

The web site http://gradnet.wits.ac.za/index.htm at WITS was defaced at 20:01 on 7 August by a hacker referred to as "Enzo Matrix". The defaced version of the site, running on a Windows 2000 operating platform, included a cartoon (see picture, right) and even the hackers e-mail address.

Hacker "Fatal Error" defaced a web site on the same operating system at the University of Stellenbosch at about 14:49 on the same day. The hacker removed all the content from the site, http://erlsrv.sun.ac.za/, and published the following notice:

// Hey Admin u b0x was Owned !!! // Fatal Error ownz you By S0l4r1s // We Are: S0l4r1s - Elemento_Pcx // Visit Us: Irc.Brasnet.org #Ferror // Gr33tz to: R3v_Vampi_Maluketz - Neoward //

Both web sites were still non-operational on Friday morning.

On 5 August 2003, the web site of the Digital Imaging Project of South Africa (http://disa.nu.ac.za/) at the University of Natal, fell to "Th3 LorDs" at about 15:50.

Following the tactics of the Stellenbosch University hacker, the content of the site was removed and replaced with the following message:

Lord_P14 ownz you!! Contact: lord_p14@hacker.am / irc.brasnet.org #Th3LorDs Greetz: As_PixadoraS

The defaced version of the web site is available at: http://www.zone-h.org/defaced/2003/08/03/disa.nu.ac.za/.

Rhodes University also came under attack on 5 August 2003, when "Th3 LorDs" defaced a web site with address http://anubis.ru.ac.za/ in the same manner as the Natal University hack.

These universities are, however, not the only institutions that suffered attacks. On 2 July 2003 the IT Services web site at the University of Cape Town was defaced by a hacker referred to as "h4ck3rsBr". The hacker did not remove the site's content but merely published his (or her) message over the existing content.

  • To view a full list of all the academic institutions defaced by hackers since July 2002, click here.
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