March 19, 2013, 1:43 pm
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on Tuesday that it would voluntarily release documents related to the prosecution of the open-access activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide in January. In a letter to the MIT community, L. Rafael Reif, the university’s president, explained that the decision was in response to a motion, filed by Mr. Swartz’s estate in federal court in Boston, that demands the release of any public information concerning the case.
“At MIT we believe in openness, and we are not afraid to examine our own actions,” Mr. Reif wrote.
At the time of his death, Mr. Swartz, 26, was facing up to 35 years in prison after he allegedly used a laptop hidden in an MIT closet in 2011 to make unauthorized downloads of more than four million scholarly articles from the nonprofit journal archive JSTOR. He was accused of downloading the materials with the…
March 12, 2013, 3:29 pm
Harvard University (Photo by Daniel Loiselle)
The revelation that Harvard University secretly looked at the e-mail inboxes of 16 resident deans in the wake of last year’s cheating scandal has led to outrage among some of its professors, with prominent faculty members taking to the Internet to vent their frustrations.
But what expectations of privacy should university employees have when it comes to their work e-mail accounts?
From a strictly legal standpoint, employees generally do not have a right to privacy when using their employers’ computers or e-mail services, legal experts say. Individual policies may offer some protections, but there is nothing illegal about an employer’s reading e-mail messages sent through its own systems or networks.
The criticism at Harvard thus focuses not on privacy laws…
February 19, 2013, 4:31 pm
The University of Oxford temporarily blocked Google Docs on Monday in an attempt to make its students and professors more aware of an increase in phishing scams that use the Web service.
In a blog post, Robin Stevens, a communications programmer at Oxford, said university officials had decided to take “extreme action” after what they perceived to be Google’s inaction on the issue.
In the schemes, attackers, often pretending to be from Oxford, send out Google Doc forms that ask users to enter their personal e-mail passwords. Students and faculty members deceived by the form then freely type in that information, unwittingly lending their account to the attacker.
“Almost all the recent attacks have used Google Docs URLs, and in some cases the phishing e-mails have been sent from an already-compromised university account to large numbers of other Oxford users,” said Mr. Stevens….
January 25, 2013, 10:58 am
Photo by Martin Reisch
A Montreal student who was expelled after discovering a security flaw in his college’s computer system is now engaged in a public war of words with the administration, as he tries to persuade it to remove the expulsion from his academic record.
Hamed Al-Khabaz, 20, said he found what he suspected was a vulnerability in the system at Dawson College in September, while he and another computer-science student were working on a mobile app. The system, called Omnivox, is used by nearly 100 colleges and more than 200,000 students in Canada.
When the pair began prying into the flaw, they received an e-mail from the college’s information-technology department, explaining that they needed permission to run the software they were using on the system. After e-mailing back to ask for consent,…
October 3, 2012, 4:23 pm
A team of hackers claims to have broken into more than 120,000 computer accounts at dozens of universities to protest what it sees as the high cost and low quality of higher education.
The group, called “Team GhostShell,” claimed responsibility on Monday for the computer attacks in a post to an online bulletin board. The post listed the universities that were the group’s targets, including Harvard University and the Universities of Cambridge and Tokyo.
In an analysis of the attacks, Identity Finder, a data-protection company, found that more than 35,000 e-mail addresses, thousands of user names, and other information had been compromised.
Leaders of Team GhostShell called its latest attack “Project WestWind,” and they said the goal was to protest higher-education systems around the world. “We have set out to raise awareness towards the changes made in today’s education, how new…
August 3, 2012, 3:13 pm
University of Central Florida
A student at the University of Central Florida has been placed on academic probation for creating a Web site that tells students when a seat becomes available in a given class.
Tim Arnold, a senior at Central Florida, built the U Could Finish site this year. The site became available in June, but, within days, was blocked from accessing the university site without notice. The Office of Student Conduct then told Mr. Arnold that he had violated university policy regarding technology use, and summoned him to a hearing.
Joel Hartman, vice provost for information technologies and resources at Central Florida, said that U Could Finish violated portions of the tech policy that prohibited students from using university tools to make money (Mr. Arnold had been charging for use of his…
November 23, 2011, 2:16 pm
Pima Community College, in Arizona, gave out nearly $270,000 in federal financial aid to scammers posing as online students, reports the Arizona Daily Star. The fraud began in July and was detected in October, according to the newspaper. “The case is one of more than 100 reported nationwide this year in which fraud rings exploit weaknesses in identity-checking for so-called distance students, who are never physically present in the classroom,” the Daily Star said. Last year Rio Salado College, one of the nation’s largest providers of online education, lost nearly half-a-million dollars in an online aid scam. That case fueled fears about the vulnerability of distance education to fraud.
November 14, 2011, 11:56 am
They watched him for six months.
Hasan Elahi, an art professor and the director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity program at the University of Maryland, was erroneously reported as a terrorist suspect and added to an FBI watch list in 2002 while at an airport in Detroit. Over the coming months, the FBI continually monitored the globe-trotting professor’s movements, phoning him at home and bringing him into their Florida offices for questioning and polygraph tests. And then, suddenly, he says, it was over.
But when Mr. Elahi asked for a letter saying he was cleared, the FBI told him they couldn’t provide him with one since he was never formally charged with anything. So, taking matters into his own hands, he started to track himself. “It was a preemptive action on my part,” Mr. Elahi told The Chronicle.
He began by uploading satellite images depicting his location and…