Harvard turns down hacking applicants

Harvard Business School said it will reject the applications of the 119 applicants who recently hacked into the school’s admissions Web site.

“I would like to have the last word on Harvard Business School’s policy regarding applicants who hacked into the ApplyYourself Inc. Web site containing confidential admissions information,” Kim Clark, dean of the business school, said in an e-mail statement. “This behaviour is unethical, at best — a serious breach of trust that cannot be countered by rationalization. Any applicant found to have done so will not be admitted to this school.”

Harvard has already said it knows the names of the 119 applicants.

Last month, a computer hacker helped applicants to several of the nation’s best business colleges and universities gain access to internal admissions records on the schools’ Web sites.

Using the screen name “brookbond,” the hacker broke into the online application and decision system of Fairfax, Va.-based ApplyYourself Inc. and posted instructions on the Internet that students could use to get information about their applications before any acceptance notices ever went out.

About 400 colleges and universities use the admissions management system, hosted and managed by ApplyYourself, to handle their admissions workflows. But only about a half-dozen schools use the decision management module, which allows individuals to determine if they have been accepted to a particular school.

The affected schools included Harvard, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and business schools at Dartmouth College, Duke University and Stanford University.

A spokeswoman at the Stanford Graduate School of Business said 41 applicants attempted to gain access to that school’s admission information, but they were met with blank screens because no decisions had yet been posted. Stanford isn’t saying what action it will take against those applicants.

“Business schools teach students to make decisions and to be accountable for those decisions,” Derrick Bolton, the assistant dean and director of MBA admissions at Stanford, said in an e-mail statement. “We hope that the applicants who accessed their accounts might contact us to explain their behaviour and to take ownership for their actions. We will take appropriate steps in the cases that warrant further scrutiny.”

Paul Danos, dean of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, said he takes the situation very seriously and will carry out a full investigation before deciding what to do. Although applicants tried to access the school’s admissions information, a spokeswoman said they were met with only a blank screen because Tuck doesn’t use ApplyYourself’s decision management module.

“We want to be thoughtful about this process. We feel it’s important to collect as much information as we can before we make a decision,” Danos said by e-mail. “We will convene a meeting with representatives from our admissions team, ethics professors and deans…to discuss the options,” Danos added in his statement.

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