Wednesday, October 20, 2021

IT expert reportedly behind hacking of UB website

Good sources say an expert hacker is behind the recent hacking of the University of Botswana’s website. The hacking was extreme and would seem to suggest the culprit was a highly IT-literate individual who is familiar with the varsity’s computer system.

When the hackers struck, the image of Guy Fawkes mask ÔÇô Fawkes being the 17th century hellraiser better known for a failed plot to blow up the British parliament, replaced the UB logo.  The hackers sought to insinuate themselves into the mantle of Anonymous, an international collective of hacker-activists by having the Guy Fawkes character hold up a sign that bears the latter’s slogan: “The Corrupt Fear Us, The Honest Support Us, The Heroic Join Us”. While it operates across the world ÔÇô Africa included, Anonymous has never hacked a Botswana website.

UB’s Director of Public Affairs, Mhitshane Reetsang says that the IT department continues to investigate the incident in order to fully understand the nature of the hacking.

“The department is doing its best to get to the bottom of the problem,” she says.

The hacking occurred in the week that UB students went on the rampage, looting an on-campus supermarket and bookstore and destroying private property on- and off-campus. With the hackers not having been identified, it is yet unclear whether there was any connection between the hacking and the strike. There may be such connection because one of the messages defacing the UB website related to a tiff that the striking students had with the Secretary General of the Botswana Democratic Party, Botsalo Ntuane. Accounts of what exactly happened differ but the striking students are supposed to have burnt a national flag, something the UB Student Representative Council denies. Ntuane weighed in on the issue by lambasting the students for showing disrespect towards country and flag. It is Guy Fawkes’ #Ntuanemustfall hashtag message that establishes the said link.

It could have been worse. Last year, after the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom was hacked, the emails and passwords of staff and students were shared online. In the same year, Michigan State University in the United States was hit by cybercriminals. In the latter case, the hackers obtained unauthorized access to a database that contained records on 400 000 current and former students. No data was compromised in UB’s case as Reetsang states. As Sunday Standard learns from one UB lecturer, however, it was not possible to use the email service as a result of the hack. This was a great inconvenience for a cadre of professionals that uses email to communicate amongst themselves as well as with colleagues and institutions abroad.

If apprehended (and that is supposing they are locals) the culprits will feel the brunt of the new cybercrime law.

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