[ISN] Hackers Elude Accelerator Center Staff

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Mon Jun 15 1998 - 03:15:09 PDT

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    Forwarded From: "Spencer, Will" <wspencerat_private>
    	Hackers Elude Accelerator Center Staff                     
    	(San Francisco Chronicle; 06/11/98)                      
    Officials at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center are rethinking the
    openness of their computer system a week after hackers forced them to shut
    down outside access to the federal research facility's computer network. 
    External access to the center's computer system was suspended after staff
    members failed to catch hackers who had intercepted a password and were
    moving in and out of more than 30 of the facility's Unix servers. 
    "We traced the hackers around to the point that we weren't gaining on
    them," said center spokeswoman P.A. Moore. "The person or persons were
    successful in covering their tracks and in getting into and out of
    It is still unclear how the hackers got access to a password and the
    system, Moore said. 
    But as a result of the breach, she said, officials are rethinking the
    center's policy of being an open scientific research facility.  She said
    proposals are being considered to restrict the center's computer system. 
    "A number of options are being considered and they range from very mild to
    more severe," she said. 
    Moore said that most of the center's Internet services were restored
    Tuesday after security measures were put in place and that staff members
    were instructed to change their passwords. 
    The shutdown did not create any serious problems, although it caused
    delays in many projects and denied researchers from all over the world
    access to the center's Web site, Moore said. 
    Established in 1962, the Linear Accelerator Center is funded by the
    Department of Energy and operated by Stanford University. With a staff of
    about 1,300 and 2,000 researchers worldwide, the center conducts basic
    research on atomic and subatomic physics. The center's researchers use
    colliders to study matter at the atomic level.  "Mostly, we've lost time
    on experiments," Moore said. "We do not see that any data has been
    compromised. It's more of a setback than a major disaster." 
    But she said future break-ins will remain a problem for open scientific
    facility. The center does not conduct any classified research, she said. 
    "Computer hackers are very sophisticated in terms of their knowledge and
    ease in traveling through cyberspace," she said. "We're vulnerable. By
    being an open facility, we are a target for vandals." Stephen Hansen, a
    Stanford University computer security officer, said campus system
    break-ins average at least two a month. 
    A common tool used by hackers is a computer program dubbed "the sniffer,"
    which allows intruders to decode data in a system, specifically passwords
    and log-on names. 
    "Sniffers are quite dangerous," Hansen said. "If they are not caught right
    away, they can lead to break-ins to thousands of accounts, not just
    locally, but across the Internet." 
    To minimize such break-ins, he said, more system operators are using
    encryption programs that prevent hackers from determining sign-on names
    and passwords. However, this is not an easy option for the Stanford center
    because encryption programs are prohibited in some countries, including
    France, where a number of center-affiliated researchers live. 
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