Harvard Applicants Breached Security

Tried via computer to learn status

By Hiawatha Bray and Robert Weisman, Globe Staff | March 4, 2005

For at least two hours after midnight Wednesday, a computer hacker enabled applicants to the Harvard Business School to find out whether they'd been accepted, weeks before Harvard planned to release the news.

According to Harvard, more than 100 would-be graduate students took advantage of the digital loophole, and some of them glimpsed preliminary decisions on their applications. The loophole affected other schools, including the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and business schools at Stanford, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, and other universities. But officials at Stanford and MIT said none of their admissions decisions had yet been posted to their sites.

In a security breach at ApplyYourself Inc., the Fairfax, Va. company that runs the admissions computer systems for the business schools and

400 other colleges and universities, a hacker found a way to let applicants peek at confidential admissions data. "This is the first incident of this kind," said Len Metheny, the chief executive of ApplyYourself. "Once we learned about it, within literally 2 (?) hours, we had made appropriate adjustments to the system ... We still remain confident that it's a secure system."

But Steven Nelson, the executive director of Harvard's MBA program, said their admissions data were vulnerable for nine hours, during which 119 applicants from countries around the world tried to get at their admissions status.

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