Are the Next Cyber Attacks Based on Religious Discrimination

Media Division | January 19, 2017

The reasoning behind cyber attacks can vary greatly, ranging from stealing money and data, and damaging critical infrastructure, to diminishing reputation. At times, there seems to be no end to attackers’ malicious intent.  In a recent cyber attack, the purpose was for religious discrimination.

The attack was employed upon Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and targeted the Jewish student body.  Specifically, printers at the university were accessed from an outside source and started printing out anti-Semitic fliers.  The attack has prompted outrage from the Jewish students at Vanderbilt.

The incident is being investigated by the Vanderbilt University Police, and federal authorities have been notified as well.  Currently, the perpetrator of the cyber attack has not yet been identified.  Vanderbilt Hillel Executive Director, Ari Dubin has condemned the attack and has expressed praise and gratitude to the university and VUPD for their rapid response.

Possible Link to Earlier Discriminatory Attacks

Officials say the incident could be linked to a string of similar attacks that occurred in universities last year in March.  A white supremacist hacker had taken credit for attacks upon Brown University, Princeton University, and other colleges, when they were breached last year, and their printers started churning out pages with swastikas and messages against Jewish people.  Vanderbilt University spokeswoman Princine Lewis said in a statement to the Tennessean, “‘Currently it is an open investigation,” Lewis wrote. “However, this most recent incident appears similar to incidents in March 2016 in which an outside source was able to access networked printers at several universities around the country.’”  Whether or not this is the same hacker or simply a copycat is uncertain, but it gives the authorities an immediate lead to follow up with.

The Concern of University Cyber Security

Colleges seem to be increasing targets for cyber attacks of different types.  Between this current incident and the previous religious related attacks, as well as the recent hack of LA Valley Community College, they seem to be becoming more frequent.  This raises concern of the strength of college cyber security.  With the frequency of college attacks rising quickly, it brings a necessity for them to fortify their security.  Religious discrimination such as this is a serious issue, being that students of all denominations attend our nation’s universities.   Proper cyber security is critical to ensure that students of all types are protected.

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