Experiment or not, UC Davis had no use for the racist and anti-Semitic fliers that several campus printers spat out last Friday (March 25).
“We condemn this latest affront to our community in the strongest terms possible,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi wrote that day (the university’s César Chávez holiday) in an email to the campus community.
The campus Police Department looped in the FBI while Information and Educational Technology, or IET, began an investigation.
Saturday, a “hacktivist” and white supremacist claimed online that he had accessed networked printers at UC Davis and other universities in a “brief experiment” targeting printers that have open connections to the Internet.
Strong firewalls can block this kind of manipulation, and the UC Davis Information Security Office is working to help departments protect their printers.
“I do not think his ‘real’ intent was to expose printers, but to offend and anger people,” said Cheryl Washington, UC Davis’ chief information security officer. “Our firewalls are not inherently vulnerable. However, infrastructure is vulnerable if safeguards like our firewalls are not properly hardened.”
Dewight Kramer of IET Information Security said his team had received reports of fewer than a dozen fliers coming out of UC Davis printers.
Kramer explained that UC Davis, like most universities, has no campuswide firewall. But departments and units maintain their own firewalls, and, indeed, the strongest of those kept last week’s hate-filled flier from coming through, he said. “Fliers like this one are very easy to block,” he said.
According to published reports, the flier also showed up at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz; Brown University; California State University, Long Beach; Clark University; DePaul University; Northeastern University; Oregon State University; Princeton University; Smith College; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Oregon; University of Rhode Island; University of Southern California; and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.