Hackers target University of Wisconsin System’s database creating concerns for leadership

Systems President Tommy Thompson says IT needs an expensive upgrade.
Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 6:05 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Banks, federal and state governments, and now you can add the University of Wisconsin System as institutions dealing with hackers.

System Schools President Tommy Thompson told state senators on Wednesday the IT infrastructure needs an upgrade and it will be expensive, yet he didn’t allocate funds in his recent budget to fix it.

“How easy it is to hack and don’t think were not being hacked,” Thompson said before the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges in a meeting held at UW-Green Bay. “I want to change that, I need your help.”

An issue is UW receives nearly $1 billion a year, mostly from the federal government, to do valuable research. Thompson said UW Madison is currently working on 70 research projects related to Covid-19. There’s a possibility that research could be stolen and sold on the dark web.

“One of the things about information security particularly is that it tends to be invisible until something goes really badly wrong,” Dorothea Salo, a distinguished faculty professor at UW-Madison, said.

A hack attempt that’s being used is called the ‘Silent Librarian Phishing Scheme.’

“That is explicitly targeted at trying to exfiltrate university research, so that is another thing that makes our attack surface bigger,” Salo said. “There’s just more stuff that people want to steal.”

A few ways an individual can protect themselves online is to not have identical passwords and to back up their data as it means to not be a victim of ransomware.

Other tips include updating computer software and enabling browser pop-up blockers.

“Most phishing attacks, you know they can come through an email but there can also be a malicious link that’s just posted some place on a site,” Madison College Cyber Security professor Mike Masino said.

If you’re interested in learning how to protect yourself, Salo hosts discussions pertaining to online privacy. Here’s a link: https://badgertalks.wisc.edu/speaker/dorothea-salo/.

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