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Chemeketa’s website is latest victim in a series of hacks

By Nathan Pisano

Your information is safe.

Chemeketa’s website was hacked through WordPress on Monday, Jan. 19, joining the list of websites to be hacked by what appears to be a group of ISIS sympathizers.

Other websites included in this list:

PlayStation Network;


Malaysia Airlines; and

Xbox Live.

“WordPress is a really popular blogging software,” Greg Harris said. “It’s kind of open-sourced, so anybody can contribute templates for other people to use. It is pretty easy to hack.”

Harris is both public information officer and the dean of Marketing/Student Recruitment at Chemeketa.

The webpage with Chemeketa college news, the section of Chemeketa Online that promotes taking online classes, the employee intranet blog, and a section of Chemeketa’s library webpage were the four areas of Chemeketa’s website that were hacked.

It wasn’t long before Chemeketa IT Staff were alerted to, and resolved, the issue.

“I think it was about 7 o’clock at night when we identified what had happened,” Harris said.

The hack on Chemeketa’s website caused anyone who accessed the site to be redirected to what seemed to be a pro-ISIS webpage.

Things are not always what they appear to be, however.

Harris said, “It looked like this hacking behavior was part of a pattern at that time. WordPress indicated by Tuesday morning that there were 300 similar sorts of tampering.

“We surmised that this is a kind of game that hackers play. It was described to me as digital graffiti. What they’ll do is go in to sites and essentially see how they can tag the site.”

Whether it was really ISIS or not is still undetermined.

IT Staff were alerted Monday evening and by midday Tuesday, the website was up and running again.

“It was handled very well,” Kellie Schellenberg said. “I was very happy the students were able to get back online so quickly.”

Schellenberg, the college’s dean of Distance Education and Academic Technology, is linked with Chemeketa Online.

According to Schellenberg, the college has experienced no after-effects in the aftermath of the online attacks that she was aware of.

Harris said that while this was an odd incident, it also showed the success of the college’s systems and security.

Although the hack against WordPress was successful, thanks to the firewall between it and Chemeketa, Chemeketa’s critical data remained secure, Harris said. Important data such as student records and payroll information were unaffected.

“The good news is everything worked perfectly. We were alerted early, even though it was a time when we weren’t open, we responded quickly, and we fixed it within 18 hours,” he said.

Chemeketa students also have little reason to worry that this sort of thing might happen again.

Harris said that security was improved and protocols were changed; when there is activity on WordPress, there will be additional levels of scrutiny for anything to be posted.

“Our internet security is strong and effective,” he said. “Everything worked perfectly, and there was no serious threat to critical student information or records.”

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