From a desk thousands of miles away, a Phoenix, AZ man allegedly tried to compromise thousands of university student accounts. He succeeded at several East Coast institutions. For students involved, this theft of their data could create new, unfamiliar risks and some sleepless nights.
Jonathan Powell was taken into custody November 2 and charged with using a computer for illegal purposes. He reportedly hacked into thousands of college student user accounts.
“This case should serve as a wake up call for universities and educational institutions around the country, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “Powell allegedly stole students’ personal information and searched their photos for potentially embarrassing content.”
Powell reportedly attempted to access more than 2,000 university email accounts using password reset tools. Those tools allowed him to trigger password resets for the accounts. Investigators compared it to “pick(ing) the lock” on thousands of private accounts.
Close to 75 universities were targeted. At least two had their servers seriously compromised. The first was located in New York City; the second was based in Pennsylvania. Investigators are not identifying the victim campuses. Powell reportedly used his computer at work to compromise accounts.
In this case, the intruder reportedly sought to access student social media accounts, emails, and other online accounts seeking compromising photos and other data. If convicted, Powell, 29, could spend five years in jail. It’s not certain how he intended to use any explicit photos but the possibilities are endless.
Students are often prime hacker targets because they are less concerned about sharing or storing data. After graduation, they move frequently making it challenging for the organizations holding their data to get in touch after a data breach. Graduates and current students are also the target of specific scams seeking payment for taxes not owed.
If your dependent’s college is hacked, it could impact their credit report and make it challenging to get student loans, rent an apartment or buy a first car. You need to guard their identity as vigilantly as you guard your own.
ID Watchdog has several options to make the job simple. Your student may not see the value right away but a year of identity monitoring really is the perfect gift.