A Hacker Break-In Scrambles Kellogg

Thousands of students, alumni, and faculty have their personal info compromised. Plus: News from the GMAC, Owen School, and Kogod School

By Francesca Di Meglio

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is investigating a recent security breach on its computer network. This comes just weeks after at least 119 people used instructions first posted on BusinessWeek Online's forums to hack into and view confidential online admissions information at numerous top MBA programs, including Harvard Business School. However, David Keown, Kellogg's chief information officer and assistant dean for information technology, says there's no reason to believe the two hacking incidents are related.

On Mar. 20, while most students were away on spring break, Northwestern University's IT department noticed that two Kellogg servers were sending anomalous traffic onto the university network. The IT group blocked this traffic from the broader network and alerted Kellogg.

Investigations uncovered hacking activity on multiple computers and also revealed that the hacker had most likely gathered user ID and password information from the Kellogg domain. No reports have yet surfaced of unauthorized use of personal information as a result of the security breach, says Keown. "It's often very hard to tell what the original motives of attacks like these are. However, our investigation has identified patterns of the hacker's behavior that suggest the servers were not targeted to obtain personal information," he adds.

The school responded by disabling the password for anyone who had an account in the Kellogg domain, which includes about 500 faculty, 3,000 students, and 14,000 alumni. The IT unit worked through the night as students returned to campus or called in to create new passwords, so they could access their accounts and check e-mail. The alumni-relations group is also creating new passwords for the former students who were affected. Kellogg has hired an outside firm to review security measures and a forensics team to look into this particular intrusion.

Machine-Scoring for GMAT Essays

Planning to take the GMAT next year? You might be interested to learn that starting in 2006, Vantage Learning, a provider of online assessment tools, will administer the automated essay scoring for the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) -- the essay portion of the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) that most MBA programs require for admission. The GMAT comprises three sections, AWA and two multiple-choice portions that test verbal and quantitative skills.

Basically, humans will program Vantage Learning's IntelliMetric machine to look for certain things in an essay. The machine will then suggest a grade that will be combined with those of two human scorers to come up with a total for each test taker's essay section.

IntelliMetric has proved highly accurate, says Bob Ludwig, director of external communications for the General Management Admission Council, which administers the tests. To evaluate the validity and credibility of IntelliMetric, the machine scored 500 responses to six GMAT test questions. IntelliMetric showed similar results to the human graders 96% to 98% of the time.

The machines are also more efficient than humans, which is important because the GMAT is administered to 200,000 applicants annually, and over 1,500 schools and 1,800 programs around the world use it as an assessment of an individual's skills. If a disparity arises between the human and automated score for the essay section, the final decision is left to humans. Says Scott Elliot, chief operating officer of Vantage Learning: "People still carry the day." Now, if someone could just come up with a machine to take the GMAT.

New Deans for Owen and Kogod

Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management in Nashville, Tenn., and American University's Kogod School of Business in Washington, D.C., recently announced new dean appointments.

Kogod went with an academic, Richard M. Durand, who had been dean at Lehigh University College of Business & Economics in Bethlehem, Pa., since 1999. Durand replaces Myron Roomkin, who left in 2004 to take over the deanship at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western University.

Born in New York City in 1948, Durand spent part of his childhood in Havana and speaks Spanish. "My father worked for Esso [part of what is now ExxonMobil (XOM )] and was transferred there in 1955," Durand recalled in an e-mail.

"My memories of Cuba are vivid. In addition to wonderful feelings associated with the Cuban people, I remember seeing tanks rolling down streets, being awakened in the middle of the night as fighting was getting close to the house, seeing armed barbudos in the streets, and having a document attached to the door showing that we were American citizens. We were among the last Americans from Esso to leave and were part of the first major flight of Cubans to Miami [in 1960, after Fidel Castro began nationalizing foreign-owned assets]."

Atop Durand's to-do list are strengthening the school's global approach in the metropolitan D.C. community and abroad, and bringing the business community to the academic world.

At Vanderbilt -- ranked 30th on BusinessWeek's 2004 list of Best B-Schools -- the search committee gave the top job to Jim Bradford. He had served as interim dean since last year, after former Dean William Christie stepped down to return to the faculty as a management professor.

A corporate executive turned educator, Bradford was also CEO of glass manufacturers AFG Industries and United Glass. He joined the Owen faculty as an assistant professor of management in 2002. His areas of expertise include mergers and acquisitions, employment, financing, and business structures.

Bradford's main priorities as dean are to launch new programs, including a health-care MBA kicking off in fall 2005 that potentially will ingratiate Owen with the 290 health-care companies in Nashville. He also plans a new curriculum for students in the full-time MBA program. Says Bradford: "I hope to differentiate [Owen] from the other MBA programs even more and create the premier health-care MBA."

Francesca Di Meglio is a reporter for BusinessWeek Online in Fort Lee, N.J.

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