[ISN] Hackers prompt Nebo District to upgrade software security

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jan 02 2003 - 22:29:03 PST

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    The Daily Herald 
    January 01, 2003
    SPANISH FORK -- Computer hackers tried to break into the Nebo School
    District's computer network 638 times on Dec. 1.
    A test of Nebo's system that day by technology officials from the Utah
    Education Network turned up that many attempted invasions, according
    to district program analyst Ron Andrews.
    The hackers could be anywhere in the world, looking to access the
    district's network to find empty file space to illegally store data,
    such as child pornography where they can access it but it can't be
    traced back to them. Or they could be trying to take control of
    another computer in order to use it as a launching point to attack
    other computers. The hackers can even vandalize a computer, such as
    erase a hard drive.
    "You view vandalism as someone coming in with a can of spray paint and
    writing on your wall. But what difference is there between that and
    this?" Andrews said.
    These attempts at computer vandalism prompted the district to upgrade
    its computer security software recently, protecting the district's
    computer files from predators as well as keeping students and teachers
    from accessing questionable Internet sites.
    Dale Bills, district technical services supervisor, recently worked
    with Andrews for a week to implement the security measures, including
    setting up $3,000 of filtering software, which was an upgrade from the
    previous filtering system. They think the investment will save the
    district time and money.
    "It's protecting our computers, which saves our users grief and which
    saves the technicians time because they don't have to go fix what a
    hacker breaks because the hacker can't get to the equipment," Bills
    He said the district investigated several content filtering options
    looking for one that would meet the challenging needs of the school
    environment, and the district is happy with the decision.
    "We worked with Utah Education Network, which has done a lot of
    testing with different filtering packages. They and we both feel the
    filtering software we have chosen is the best available," Bills said.  
    "From the testing, the software appears to have the most complete
    'black list,' so to speak, and an excellent process to keep their list
    The district's filter also blocks users from certain categories on the
    Internet. For example, if a district employee or student tries to
    access an adult, sex-oriented Web site, a stop-sign page shows up on
    the screen that reads: "The site you requested is blocked under your
    organization's filtering policy. It fits into the following filtering
    category(ies) that your organization has chosen to block: Adults Only,
    In order to keep students off of potentially offensive sites, Nebo
    District has listed the following types of Web sites as forbidden:  
    adults only, alcohol, drugs, chat, gambling, free mail,
    hate/discrimination, illegal, lingerie, message bulletin,
    murder/suicide, personals, pornography, profanity, school cheating,
    search topics, sex, swimsuits, tasteless/gross, tobacco and weapons.
    Categories that are considered OK include: auction, employment search,
    free pages, games, jokes, search engines, stocks and
    One of the issues with filtering Web content for educational purposes
    is that sometimes the filters are overly broad and block sites that
    might be considered legitimate for educational purposes, such as
    medical sites dealing with breast cancer.
    But Bills said students can do research on medical topics that may be
    red-flagged under the district's filter by accessing the Utah
    Education Network Web site, which opens up a portal to scientific
    journals at the University of Utah.
    The filter also screens e-mail for objectionable content. If a certain
    word pops up in a district-sent e-mail, the message will be returned.  
    The glitch in this filtering process is that sometimes a longer word
    may contain an obscene word, and therefore be targeted, resulting in
    an innocent e-mail being frozen.
    The district uses about 4,000 computers in its offices and classrooms,
    and almost all of them have Internet access.
    This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A5.
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