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MIT website hacked again in tribute to cyber activist Aaron Swartz

In a tribute to Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old cyber activist who committed suicide earlier this month, computer hackers took down the website of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for an hour on Tuesday.

Outside viewers who visited the university’s web domain between 11:58 a.m. and 1:05 p.m. saw a black page with white text reading, “R.I.P. Aaron Swartz, Hacked by grand wizard of Lulzsec, Sabu.” The student newspaper, The Tech, reported the outage -- at least the second time in the last month that MIT has been hacked.

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The weekend after Swartz’s suicide, MIT’s website was down for a few hours, and some areas of the website were turned into a memorial page for Swartz. According to the Tech, last Saturday there was also a 10-hour e-mail outage.

Spokeswoman Kimberly Allen said in a statement that Tuesday’s outage affected those who were trying to access the website from outside MIT. E-mail correspondence within MIT was not affected.

MIT’s Information Services & Technology “was made aware of the problem via automated email from the domain registrar to MIT indicating that MIT’s Domain Name Servers had been changed,” Allen wrote. “MIT’s domain rights and the domain were returned to MIT’s control at 1:05 p.m.”

The Tech reported that people who visited the website were redirected from the usual servers to a web page hosted by a security company called CloudFlare.

Matthew Prince, co-founder and chief executive of the company, wrote in an e-mail that CloudFlare was not hacked.

A person who “obtained unauthorized control” over the domain used CloudFlare’s Domain Name Servers to host the domain, Prince wrote. “We worked with MIT immediately upon becoming aware of the situation to restore access to their domain.”

According to the Tech, the hacked webpage included the name of a hacker, Sabu, and a hacker group called LulzSec. It also said, “God Bless America, Down with Anonymous” and played the National Anthem.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.
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