Anti-Semitic flyers printed on DePaul campus

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DePaul’s Vincentian mission assures hateful rhetoric has no place on its campuses. With organizations, offices and groups like the Jewish Life Center, students have a place to feel supported and included on campus. But last Thursday a threat was posed to that vision. 

In an email sent to faculty and staff by DePaul President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Holtschneider  condemned anti-Semitic and white supremacist flyers that appeared in output trays throughout DePaul’s campus last week.

“We are currently investigating the breach as well as the source and origin of this despicable act, which certainly is not reflective of DePaul’s values nor of our campus culture where ALL are welcome,” Holtschneider said in the email to faculty and staff.

Now, the university is left scrambling to find a solution that ensures this won’t happen again.

“After reporting of the incident, we were able to note all affected printers and begin remediation from steps to harden them from future abuse,” DePaul Director of Information Security Arlene Yetnikoff said. “While we would rather have prevented this incident completely, our incident response processes have stood us in good stead for analysis of this incident as soon as it was reported to us.

“We will continue to investigate the best way of implementing this control, while striving not to impact legitimate uses of our printers.”

To aid in the investigation, the university’s remote printing feature will be turned off temporarily, but will not impact on-campus printing. Yetnikoff said Information Security (IS) received initial notification of activity from a DePaul employee using one of the affected printers. The University responded immediately, she said.

“After reporting of the incident, we were able to note all affected printers and begin remediation steps to harden them from future abuse,” Yetnikoff said.“While we would rather have prevented this incident completely, our incident response processes have stood us in good stead for analysis of this incident as soon as it was reported to us.  We will continue to investigate the best way of implementing this control, while striving not to impact legitimate uses of our printers.”

According to The New York Times, computer hacker Andrew Auernheimer, also known as “Weev”, claimed responsibility for the flyers that appeared at over a dozen of universities and colleges including The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Brown University and The University of California, Berkeley. Mr. Auernheimer said in an interview on Monday that he sent the fliers to every publicly accessible printer in North America. He said he did not specifically target college campuses, The New York Times reported.

Yetnikoff leads the Information Security team within the IS department and oversees the investigation that ensued after the hack.

“We would not generally consider this despicable incident a ‘hack,’ a word we would usually reserve for a criminal using a computer to take over network resources or to access data in a system in an unauthorized manner,” Yetnikoff said. “This incident was a case of a miscreant sending a document over the Internet to several DePaul printers.”

Despite rushing to fix the incident, DePaul’s technological security measures were susceptible to the hack. Yetnikoff said technology has many layers of protection and hackers have a multitude of attack methods to bypass them.

“DePaul is more centralized from a computing stance than many other universities our size,” she said.  “By policy, unless exceptions are made, computing servers are to be housed in DePaul’s data centers where we have further technology controls and monitoring systems to protect sensitive information.” Though printers are not housed in the data center but throughout the university, printer protection has been on the forefront of IS’ agenda.

[Read: Archbishop Blase Cupich speaks about anti-Semitic flyers]

“We have been addressing printer protection over the past couple of years at DePaul as attacks have metamorphosed,” Yetnikoff said.

DePaul freshman Benji Shefler learned of the hack through shared Facebook posts.

“I wasn’t worried there was going to be any physical harm,” Shefler said of the anti-Semitic flyers, “My only concern was about anti-Semitism in general. I think there’s a lot of hateful rhetoric going around for many groups of people so I think it’s something we should highlight and use it as a way to move past hurtful opinions and make something good of this hatred.”

DePaul freshman Dennis Nabrinsky found out about the printer hack while talking about it with his peers at DePaul Jewish Life Center.

“Before I knew the extent, I was a little concerned like maybe it was something on campus that would target Jewish kids,” Nabrinsky said.  “After hearing about this, a lot of people came in here and they were just talking to each other, reassuring that though there’s some discussion that needs to be had about anti-Semitism on campus but as of now, there is nothing DePaul kids should be afraid of.”

Both Shefler and Nabrinsky said that the printer hack offered an opportunity for DePaul to start a conversation about anti-Semitism and hate on college campuses.

“If a kid who doesn’t know much about anti-Semitism or hate in general or if they never been a victim of hate, if they see any sort of hateful flyer, on any group, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Jewish group, the Muslim group on campus,” Nabrinsky said. “If they see a hateful flyer just make sure to denounce in right away. Denounce all forms of hatred.”