Campus printers victim of off-site hacking

Evan Pflugradt

Printers on the Wichita State campus printed out anti-Semitic propaganda as the result of an off-site hacking, announced Monday in a news release.

Printers are publically accessible if they are connected to a public IP address. According to Wichita State chief information officer Toney Flack, the process isn’t an act of hacking.

“Rather than hacking, I’d categorize it as simply printing to printers,” he said.

The Chronicle of Higher Education sent out a nationwide warning, indicating attacks had taken place early Monday morning in Europe. According to the New York Times, 12 public U.S. universities were attacked Monday afternoon.

“Being a university, we’re considered mature, early adopters of the internet,” Flack said. “At the time of the Internet’s inception, this wasn’t much of an issue. There wasn’t malicious intent by many, largely because there weren’t many who shared access to it.”

Flack said WSU was an early adopter of the current IP addressing scheme, originally designed in the 1960s. He said the attacker targeted a large section of the Internet globally, and had a main focus of U.S. universities.

“Universities are in general, more vulnerable than private-sector businesses and organizations, because universities have existed longer,” he said.

Flack said he believes the intent of the attacker was to demonstrate the vulnerability, of which he said the university has long been aware of.

“The vulnerability existed for all of eternity,” he said.

The Information Technology Services department initiated a project last year to switch all university printers from public IP addresses to private domains.

“We’re trying to step up our project to put all of our printers on private IP addresses,” he said. “[Private IP addresses] are not vulnerable outside of our entity.”

Flack said this particular vulnerability would be fully fixed, with no way of outside attackers repeating this act.

“We are accelerating our plans to have it finished in the next couple of months,” he said. “We are half-done with our project.”

Flack said department has estimated this project as being fully resolved in the next two months.

“We already have a plan, and the IP addresses,” he said. “Doing it is something we cannot do overnight.”