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Washington State University Students Get Surprise Video Message from Hacker in Class

Students and professors at Washington State University arriving for class last Friday morning were greeted with a surprise video message on classroom video screens, courtesy of an unknown hacker who gained control of the campus media services system.

According to Darin Watkins, Executive Director for external communications at Washington State University, the hack caused video screens in several classrooms in two buildings to simultaneously come down without warning, followed by a video automatically playing on the screen.

Students and professors at Washington State University arriving for class last Friday morning were greeted with a surprise video message on classroom video screens, courtesy of an unknown hacker who gained control of the campus media services system.

According to Darin Watkins, Executive Director for external communications at Washington State University, the hack caused video screens in several classrooms in two buildings to simultaneously come down without warning, followed by a video automatically playing on the screen.

The video message was delivered by an individual dressed up as V, a mysterious revolutionary who works to destroy the totalitarian government in the 2006 movie V for Vendetta.

According to Darin Watkins, they don’t have any suspects yet, but the incident is being actively investigated by campus police. The apparent hacker isn’t laying low and has setup a Web site (WSU1812.Com) as well as a Facebook page to promote his or her efforts. In the video the individual used voice changing software to conceal his/her real voice, but it does appear to be a male.

The apparent hacker’s Facebook information page says, “We, the students of WSU, have grown tired of this university’s disregard for the opinion of it’s students. While this attitude of disrespect is not common, it seems to be present in some of the highest ranking university officials. It is time the university regarded students as customers, not source of income.”

According to a Facebook status update posted on Saturday, the hacker says “So far I’ve received emails from 3 news reporters, 1 job offer at Google, one from someone in Lighty, one from an angry “IT” guy, and hundreds from fans. All in all a good day. Now just to hope my real goal, students making this university a better place, will be achieved.”

Watkins said that the hack was isolated to the academic media services system and that no other critical information systems were compromised. University staff worked all weekend long to get things back together, as systems had to be reworked to ensure teaching systems we up and running again without being compromised.

A transcript of the hacker’s message is below:

Good day, WSU. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. It will be brief such that you may quietly, or otherwise, continue with your various obligations. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of everyday routine, the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any chap. But in the spirit of commemoration – whereby those important events of the past, usually associated with someone’s death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, are celebrated with a nice holiday – I thought we could mark this November the fifth, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat.

There are of course, those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now that the phones are ringing at the information technology office and functionaries — which is rather ironic terminology given our upcoming topic — will soon scurry from their lair to suppress our pleasant conversation. Why? Because while the strict social patterns of obedience may be used in lieu of conversation, soft spoken words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, that there is something quite troubling with our University, isn’t there?

At some level, each one of you knows already of what I speak, or whom, rather. They, with their beady little eyes and mamilian faces, who have come to Pullman merely to eat, drink, and bread. Truly, it is the squirrels that have infiltrated our once astute university, who run rampant and wild through the lawns in some apparent state of perpetual inebriation. What has transpired in our culture that steadfast pursuit of dignity, purpose, and wisdom has yielded space for squirrels who enter without ambitions and with no outward enthusiasm for the fantastic academic culture that this University might otherwise have.

How did this happen? Who is to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others. But again, truth be told… if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look in a mirror.

I know why you do it. I know you’re afraid. Who wouldn’t be? Squirrels are ferocious creatures. Weighing in at 5 pounds muscle and 1 ounce fur, these diurnal rodents may multiply 3 fold in the time of one semester. They can survive almost any habitat feeding on seeds, nuts, or the unsuspecting meaty prey. Fear got the best of you and in your panic, you let them into our city, your lawns, and your very lives.

And so I resolve to end this tyranny that has soaked into the very brick that holds our university together. More than one hundred years ago, WSU was founded as a land grant university under the federal Morrill Act. When that bill was signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, education was recognized as a privilege, one that as Americans, we tend to forget. So if you have see nothing, if the crimes committed against us remain unknown to you, then I would suggest that you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek then I ask you to stand beside me, and one year from today on lawns of this fine university we shall give the squirrels a fifth of November that shall never be forgot!

And really IT, get with the program and stop wasting exorbitant amounts of money on equipment that periodically freezes and allows unauthorized access. Consider stepping outside yourpersonal areas of comfort and the safe purchases dictated by popular culture. This system which you took months and untold thousands of dollars to implement, I have re-designed in one hour.

Good luck.

Written By

For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring the threat landscape and analyzing trends in the National Security and enterprise cybersecurity space. In his role at SecurityWeek, he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and is the Director of several leading security industry conferences around the world.

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