Belgian hackers disrupt campus ‘Net

Technology department works with Bellsouth to prevent future attacks

By Julia Redemske

On Oct. 27, Flagler College students living on campus spent the morning without the Internet. The entire dorm network had gone down.
“I know that it caused a lot of chaos,” said Ashley Wilkins, Flagler College freshman. “I was trying to write a paper at the time, so when the Internet went down, I wasn’t able to get any of my sources.”

The cause: hackers. According to Joseph Provenza, technology services director at Flagler College, hackers implemented a targeted denial of service attack that was traced back to an IP address in Belgium.

So what is a targeted denial of service attack? Basically, the dorm network was purposefully flooded with so much Internet traffic from these hackers that nothing else could get through. They were denying students the right to use their own network.

“I thought that the Internet breaking down was annoying,” said Carrie Meadows, Flagler College senior. “Just because I’m addicted [to the Internet] and I had to come to the library . . . it’s not the biggest deal in the world, it’s just a little annoying.”

According to Provenza, the hackers used DNS requests to flood the system. Because DNS requests are common communication vehicles and totally normal forms of Internet traffic, firewall and other security features do not block against them. “If hackers are going to attack you, that’s a common way they do it,” Provenza said.

The attack was so strong that Bellsouth, the Internet provider for Flagler College, had to block the attack at the edge of their network before the on-campus students were able to get back online.

“Bellsouth has dutifully stayed on top of it and kept in contact with us because of what they had to do,” Provenza said. “They had to literally alter a small portion of their network to block this thing away.”

“It seems that the [attack] that hit Flagler College, because of the volume of data that was being sent, was unusual,” said Bellsouth Spokesperson Don Sadler.

Right now, there is no reported motive for the attack. According to Provenza, it could have been a malicious act, a case of mistaken identity, or simply a mischievous person or organization looking for kicks.

“[The Internet going down] didn’t really affect us too much,” said Flagler College junior Gail Connor, “because last year it happened a couple times. We’d have a couple hours or a day or so without Internet and we were able to manage just fine.”

According to Provenza, the office of technology services is always on the look out for these types of things.

“Our network fends off attempted attacks continually,” he said. “We’ve just never had anyone attack us with that much resource.”

The hackers have not been seen or heard of since the network invasion and Provenza said students at Flagler College should know that he and his department are continuing to make sure the network.

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