A computer hacker who destabilised the university’s website on two separate occasions has had an appeal against his two-year jail sentence dismissed.
21-year-old Lewys Martin, of Deal in Kent, targeted the websites of Oxford and Cambridge Universities by carrying out Denial of Service attacks and hiding his IP address. He also defrauded businessman David Bradley and attacked a server belonging to Kent Police.
The Court of Appeal heard from Martin’s lawyers that his sentence was too long because he had only slowed the websites down. His appeal was rejected by a panel of three judges on the grounds that a deterrent was needed.
An Oxford University spokesman said that “where appropriate, improvements have been made”.
The university has numerous defences in place to defend against such attacks and appropriate mitigating action was taken. As a result the impact was kept to a minimum and normal service was resumed very quickly.
“No systems or information were compromised as a result of these attacks however, as is the usual procedure following any security incident, all security controls were reviewed following this attack and, where appropriate, improvements have been made.”
At the time, it was estimated that two weeks of manpower were used to deal with the attacks on both of the Oxford and Cambridge sites.
During his trial, Martin had pleaded guilty to nine offences. The charges included one count of unauthorised access to computer material as well as a further five counts of unauthorised acts with the intent to impair computer function.
Denial of Service attacks work by sending multiple requests for information, causing the website to stop functioning as intended.
The attacks, in 2011 and 2012, rendered Oxford’s website unusable. Martin was part of the “hacktivist” group NullCrew, and also went by the username Sl1nk.
Physics department research data was accidentally released to the public last Saturday, leading to fears that Oxford might be the latest victim in the series of University centered cyber attacks which has swept the nation this week.
The research data accidentally released by the University was posted on a prominent hacking website leading some to fear the data had been retrieved through a cyber attack. A University spokesperson said that they were now confident that “The University of Oxford was not the subject of a deliberate hacking attack” they went on to say that “Information about how to connect to an internal database of academic publications relating to the work of a single research group was accidentally made public, but the main departmental website is an entirely separate system and was unaffected. The system was returned to full service within 24 hours.”
However, while an external security breech has now been ruled out by University officials, other universities across the country, including Cambridge , have confirmed themselves to be the victims of major cyber attacks this week.
[caption id="attachment_25371" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This mask is the symbol of the Anonymous movement.
On 24th and 29th August respectively both Cambridge University and Africa College Leeds (a research partnership affiliated to the University of Leeds working to improve food sources in sub-Saharan Africa) websites were infiltrated by hackers.
In both cases the hackers succeeded in accessing administrator login details as well as hundreds of university email addresses.
Responsibility for the two incidents has been claimed by a group of hackers calling themselves NullCrew. The group claim to be affiliated with Anonymous and to have conducted the attacks as a show of support for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In both incidents NullCrew left messages with the hash-tag #OpFreeAssange.
In a message following NullCrew’s attack on Cambridge the hackers said: “There is much more where this came from, and don’t think this is the end. NullCrew, along with the whole Anonymous movement isn’t near finished with you. And we never will be, until the right thing is done with Julian Assange. Next time it will be worse, we guarantee it.”
[caption id="attachment_25369" align="aligncenter" width="758"] Message left by NullCrew following the hacking of Cambridge University[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_25370" align="aligncenter" width="713"] Message left by NullCrew following the hacking of Africa College, Leeds[/caption]
However, talking to The Oxford Student on an #OpFreeAssange internet forum, one member of the movement emphasised the loose nature of the organisation saying that they “would always be against hacking credible universities”
Manchester University has also reported being hit by a cyber attack in the last few days. However while the attackers used the name OpFreeAssange, it is not known whether they are affiliated with NullCrew.
Welcome to Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, racist Tories and overly-aggressive charity muggers- Chuggers to their friends. (I mean “friends” in the loosest sense of the word. It must be hard to maintain a friendship with someone when the simplest offer to get a round in is met with a sour look and a ‘really? That’s just so insensitive. There are three legged donkeys out there who don’t even have fresh water and you want to drink beer? Besides, prawncocktail crisps are offensive to the mollusc community”.)
Once easily avoided with a cheeky sidestep or a cry of “oh look! A posh-boy chasing a fox!” today’s chuggers are a new breed; stealth-ridden ninjas Darwinianly evolved to sniff out a guilty conscious like a spaniel in a Columbian airport. The moment your foot hits Cornmarket Street you are lost and they descend on you like a crowd of angry seagulls gangbanging a stray chip, buckets a-swinging and leaflets a-waving.
Now I don’t want you to think that this Malcontent is an uncharitable specimen- far from it. Charity is great, charity is love, contrary to popular belief it is not gravity but charity that makes the world go round and I thank everyone who does give their money away so unselfishly. Now as it happens I don’t, I spend it on vodka and shoes like any other self-respecting student, but that is not the point. The point is that if I’m going to not give my money to charity then I’m damn well going to not give it to a charity of my choosing, not whichever one some smelly random in a hideous tabard has pressganged me into on the street.
I have tried many techniques during my three years here –wearing headphones even when not attached to anything, the imaginary telephone, even the good old ‘me no habla ingles’- but nothing works. They cling on to you, limpet like, until sheer disgust at your own lack of humanity breaks you and you lob them a fiver and limp away. It is thus in the spirit of charity –nay humanity- that I implore you, good people of Oxford, rise up and reclaim the streets one ‘fuck off, I’m busy’ at a time.