University of California Notifies 80,000 of Cyber-Attack

University of California Notifies 80,000 of Cyber-Attack

Officials at the University of California Berkeley said on Friday that they were alerting 80,000 people, including current and former students, faculty and vendors of a cyber-attack on a system that stores social security and bank account numbers.

The news comes just more than a week after a Southern California hospital paid hackers $17,000 in the digital currency Bitcoin to regain control of their computer systems after a so-called “ransomware” attack.

The San Francisco Bay Area university said there was no evidence that attackers actually took any personal information, but that it was still alerting the 80,000 individuals to be on the lookout for misuse of their information.

The school said a hacker or hackers gained access to its financial management software in late December due to a security flaw present when the system is updating. Officials have notified law enforcement, including the FBI, and hired a private computer investigation company.

The university said among the potentially affected are 57,000 current and former students; about 18,800 former and current employees; and 10,300 vendors who work with the school. Those figures come out to about half of the school’s current students and two-thirds of its active employees.

Large, high-profile organizations and businesses routinely come under cyber-attack, and the school said it frequently identifies similar hacking attempts.

“The security and privacy of the personal information provided to the university is of great importance to us,” Paul Rivers, UC Berkeley’s chief information security officer, said in a statement. “We regret that this occurred and have taken additional measures to better safeguard that information.”

The school said it was providing credit protection service free of charge to those potentially impacted.

© Thomson Reuters 2016

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Tags: Cyber attack, Cyber security, Hackers, Internet, Ransomware, University of California Berkeley

Why University Spin Offs Need Engineers on the Founding Team


Recently a team of graduate students came to me to talk about a company they were planning to start. They had an option to license a university invention that used would detect heavy metal ions in water.

They had clearly researched the idea and had identified a market. They would sell sensors to companies required to comply with Environment Protection Agency standards.

As I listened to them describe their idea, my mind kept coming back to the same question: How would they make the sensors? No one on the team was an engineer, let alone an engineer with expertise in designing these types of devices.

Their plan was to outsource the development of the sensor to a third party. My gut reaction was that this effort would fail. I could be wrong — as I often am — but I don’t think entrepreneurs can be successful using third parties to develop university spin offs.

The first problem is that university inventions are at a far too early stage to develop new products from them without numerous problems and setbacks first. It is one thing to prove that a concept works in a beaker, but it’s another entirely to produce a product that works in the real world.

That means a lot of iterative work. Chances are that the product developer will have to figure out how to make the sensor for one heavy metal at a time, modifying it to adapt to differences between them. What works for cadmium might not work for lead or mercury. If developing a viable sensor will take numerous iterations over time contracting for development by a third party is going to prove hard to do.

The second problem is that they are proposing outsourcing the core of their company. You can outsource aspects of a business that are not central your operations — human resource management in a robotics start-up for instance — but not the key innovations that provide the basis of value to customers. You can’t create a company like Oculus Rift, for example, through outsourcing since the very value of the company lies in the virtual reality products that they are creating.

The third problem is that outsourcing what you don’t understand is a selection and monitoring nightmare. How do you decide who among potential candidates is going to be better at making a heavy metals sensor if you don’t know how to make one yourself? How will you figure out if they have gone off track if you don’t know what the product development track is?

A fourth problem is how to pay for the outsourced development. Where will the money come from to pay the developers? Few investors will spend money on product development from first time entrepreneurs, especially if this product development could be done in house by a member of the venture team. And the team members don’t have the money to pay for the development themselves.

My recommendation to the team was simple: Find someone who has developed sensors in this technology and industry space and get them to join the founding team.

With a member of the founding team who has the expertise to create the product, there’s a chance that the venture will get off the ground. Without it, I don’t see a path to creating a business.