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Princeton hacks into Yale Web site

Published Sep. 3, 2005

At the height of the college admissions season in early April, the director of admission at Princeton and possibly others in his office improperly and repeatedly entered a Web site set up to let Yale applicants know if they had been accepted as students, officials at both Ivy League schools confirmed on Thursday.

Yale officials filed a complaint Thursday with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Princeton officials apologized for what they called a "serious lapse of judgment" by the director, Stephen E. LeMenager. Princeton placed him on administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident, which was first reported Thursday by the Yale Daily News in its online edition.

LeMenager acknowledged that he had entered the Yale site by using the birth dates and Social Security numbers of Princeton applicants who had also applied to Yale, the university officials said.

Yale investigators found that their computer site had been improperly entered 18 times and that 11 applicants' records had been accessed without authorization.

The site, which was new this year, was designed to flash a congratulatory message if an applicant had been admitted. Those who were not accepted received a simpler message. The site also included links to admissions information and personal data about the applicants. It warned that only prospective students should use the site. Not even their parents were permitted to log on.

Neither university was willing to comment on LeMenager's motive for accessing the site. He has been with the Princeton admission office since 1983 and was promoted to associate dean and director of the office last July.

But the Yale newspaper reported that he said he accessed the Yale site because he was curious about its security. "It was really an innocent way for us to check out the security," LeMenager was quoted as saying. "That was our main concern of having an online notification system, that it would be susceptible to people who had that information _ parents, guidance counselors and admissions officers at other schools."

Princeton officials did not learn of the intrusion until late Wednesday evening, when Yale's president, Richard Levin, called Princeton's president, Shirley M. Tilghman. She and other Princeton officials spent much of Thursday trying to learn more about what had happened and discussing what to do.

Princeton plans to hire an outside independent counsel to help in the investigation.