I'm always warning you about hackers, but "hackers" is a really broad term. It covers everything from amateurs to pros, virus writers to social engineers, lone wolves to government-backed groups and more.
Any type of hacker is a worry, but it's the government-backed hackers that I'm talking about today. I told you in a previous news story that these groups are on the rise as nations prepared for a 21st century cyberwar. They're at it again, and this time it's hackers from China.
The College of Engineering at Penn State University has announced that hackers with ties to the Chinese government breached its computer systems. In fact, it's taken the college's network completely offline while it recovers the systems.
Included in the affected computers were the school's administrative systems, which means that personal information on more than 18,000 professors, students and employees was exposed. However, that's probably not why the hackers targeted the systems.
Penn State's engineering school is a major research center and has ties with up to 500 major companies and the government, including defense contracts. Information on the U.S.'s defenses and technologies would be a big score for another country.
Knowing what professors and students were working on these projects is going to be important information as well. I imagine some of them will be receiving bribes from foreign agents to give up valuable secrets.
The worst part, however, is how long the hack was going on. The FBI told Penn State about the hack in 2014. The school decided not to take action right away so it could monitor the hackers and see what they wanted and how they were getting in. That's actually not a bad idea.
However, one thing the school discovered is that the hack had been going on since 2012. That means the hackers were in the system for two years before anyone noticed.
You would hope that a high-tech school would be able to secure its systems better, but this just proves again how far we have to go in the area of corporate computer security. Fortunately, security your personal computer is a bit easier.