Penn State Hit by China-Based Hacker, University Says

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The engineering school at Penn State was the target of two sophisticated hacking attacks, one of which cybersecurity experts say originated in China, the university announced on Friday.

While the university said it is not aware of any personal data such as Social Security numbers being stolen, some passwords and usernames do seem to have been taken in the cyberattack.

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The university said the FBI alerted it to the possible breach in November of last year, and that is has taken systems for its College of Engineering off the Internet in response to the cyberattacks. A review by Mandiant cybersecurity experts found that Penn State’s systems might have been breached as far back as September 2012.

“Penn State should be commended for acting quickly to address these breaches, immediately launching a comprehensive internal investigation into the FBI’s report and retaining leading third-party computer forensic experts to assist in the investigation,” Mandiant’s Nick Bennett said in a news release.

The university said it was contacting 18,000 people who had some form of personal information on machines affected by the breach.

“Moving forward, we all will need to take additional steps to protect ourselves, our identities and our information from a new global wave of cybercrime and cyberespionage,” University President Eric J. Barron said in a message to the Penn State community on Friday.

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--- Matthew DeLuca