Education

Algerian Group Claims Credit for Hacking Kean University Computer System

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UNION, NJ - The Kean University website was hacked three times Sunday and into early Monday morning by what the college and its police department believe to be an Algerian group calling itself “Red Hell.”

The university sent out a letter around 10 p.m. Sunday notifying students about the hack of the site, which remained offline until 2:15 a.m. Monday morning.

“Kean University's externally hosted website was hacked twice in the past 24 hours by a group calling itself Red Hell, claiming to operate out of Algeria,” the letter said. “They posted a despicable message. The site was disabled as soon as we were informed of the breach. A new firewall was enabled and the site became operational again at 3 p.m. today.”

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According to the university, Rackspace, the external hosting company, is researching which other sites were hacked today in addition to www.kean.edu.

Kean said in the letter that it informed the appropriate law-enforcement authorities as soon as it learned that the site was compromised, and that one of Kean's mission-critical operations such as financial and record-management systems, KeanWise or the University's e-mail system were impacted.

The hack included a profanity-laced message that could be initially found on the site and on mobile phones of students trying to access the school online.

“Do You Feel Safe? Hacked by Red hell sofyan 2 nd time in 24 H,” the message said.

It then went on a disparaging barrage using expletives against America, France and Israel and demanded the freeing of Palestine.

Kean Police confirmed the incident when contacted in the early morning hours Monday, but would not give any other details.

A Twitter account, @RedHellSofyan, with a profile picture featuring the colors of the French flag with a red slash over it, posted a Tweet at 6:20 a.m. which read, “Need to Talk University Server Under Control.” An earlier Tweet read “HAck Is Art : D spam Is More Then Art.”

It is unclear if the Twitter account was related to the hack.

Additional information was not immediately available.

While the college believes this group and the Twitter posts may be responsible, TAP has no way to confirm the authenticity of the group's ownership of the Twitter account or to verify its claim of responsibility for the hacking.

It is the second time this month that the university has had to deal with issues caused by technology and social media.

Former student Kayla-Simone McKelvey, 24, of  Union Township, was charged earlier this month with being responsible for a series of false threatening Twitter posts targeting black students at the school in November. 

After an investigation by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit and the Kean University Police Department, it was revealed that McKelvey, an African-American self-proclaimed activist, participated in a student rally regarding racial issues held on the evening of  Tuesday, Nov. 17, but left the rally midway through and walked to a computer station located in a university library. 

Once there, McKelvey allegedly created an anonymous Twitter account and began posting racially charged threats of violence against black Kean students.

After making the posts, McKelvey immediately returned to the rally and attempted to spread awareness of the threats she allegedly had just fabricated. The investigation further revealed that there was never any actual plan to harm students.

McKelvey, was charged via summons with a single count of third-degree creating a false public alarm. A first appearance in the case was scheduled for Dec. 14, in the Union County Jail courtroom. 

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