UW researcher calls cyberattack attempts ‘shocking’

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The number of cyberattack at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is shocking, even to its top researchers.

UW’s Associate Dean for Research Policy Bill Mellon said hackers are trying to break into the school’s computer system anywhere from 90,000 to 100,000 times a day.

“I mean, I never realized, I guess, that it would be that kind of magnitude,” said Mellon.

At one of the country’s top research facilities, there’s a lot to protect. To not compromise data, Mellon wouldn’t detail what scientists are working on, only saying their work could modernize agriculture, medicine and satellite systems.

The attacks against that work are sophisticated, but so is the security to stop it.

“Ninety-five [to] 99 percent of those attacks are stopped by good firewalls, by good intrusion protection and good intrusion prevention systems that say, ‘Hey, this is an attack, I’m going to stop it at a perimeter,'” said Nick Davis with UW Information Technology.

Davis reminds everyone from researchers to students to use complicated passwords and compares them to toothbrushes — never share them.

UW researcher calls cyberattack attempts ‘shocking’

“If they practice good data security, in conjunction with the consolidated security we’re using as an institution, the chances of a data loss are drastically reduced,” said Davis.

Mellon said China is primarily responsible for the attacks, but so are Russia and Vietnam.

But the university wouldn’t say how often they’re successful. And it has invested about $1 million into protecting itself and that includes building its own servers and sending students overseas with clean, new laptops.

“We certainly don’t want to jeopardize the intellectual property that we develop here,” said Mellon.