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Network Failure or Cyberattack? Rutgers Quiet About Breach Affecting Key Server

Rutgers Has Not Yet Acknowledged Problem, Which Has Affected Residential Internet Service and Numerous Other Services Including Sakai, eCollege, and ScartletMail
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Computer network data was caught in a traffic jam at Rutgers today, but officials won't confirm a cyber-attack. Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University's Sakai online learning software is currently unavailable, and has been for some time, after what is either a major computer failure or a purposeful attack.

Connectivity issues have plagued parts of the university's computer network since the night of Friday, March 27, but Rutgers officials have not yet acknowledged the service outage, or responded to our email inquiries.

"OIT directors can speak to the media. I will forward your request onwards," wrote someone in the school's Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT), which "handles incidents in which Rutgers hosts cause problems."

The only other official communication from Rutgers about the incident was a tweet at 4:25pm from the school's Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research: "Rutgers is experiencing intermittent network problems, some services including Sakai and CAS (central login) may be unavailable."

Sources said that the school's "Central Authentication Server" was taken down, but it is not clear whether it was the result of a purposeful attack.

Other services that were affected included residential internet service on-campus, eCollege software, and anything else that requires "authentication," or logging on with a Rutgers "NetID."

If it is indeed a "cyber-attack," it would be the second this school year.  A distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack was launched against Rutgers on November 19, while some students were registering for classes.

At least one Reddit.com user who may have claimed to work for the university's technology team is convinced there was not an attack. In a post called "Data Breach," the user "HypocriticalRutgers" posted "Yes there is an issue. No, it is not a hack."

It's not clear exactly when the attack started, but the failure of certain parts of the computer network has led to heated online conversations, especially those involving one individual who took credit for the attack.

An anonymous person who goes by the Twitter handle @ogexfocus boasted about the attack and convinced other users on reddit.com's Rutgers "subreddit" community that they were the responsible party.

According to recent postings, the user was banned from posting further, but not before elaborating on his decisions.

In a reddit.com thread started by the alleged cyber-attacker, he said the reason for the attack was "because life sucks."

"You actually sound like a really smart and talented guy," wrote one user.  "Have you ever considered using your skills for good? Aren't you worried about getting expelled? Or jail time?"

"nah not worried about getting expelled or even remotely caught," responded the alleged perpetrator.  "people tell you shit like 'oh theres always a paper trail, you can never be anonymoose,' but they are people who dont understand how to properly anonymize themselves,"

"How do you know so much networking to do stuff like this?" another questioned the mysterious person.

"because the internet is free."