Those who visited the homepage of University of Virginia’s Web site Monday night were often redirected to a page stating “root the box” and showing a blurry white skull on a black background, and then to the Twitter account of @R00tTh3B0x, an anonymous hacker (or hackers) who claimed to have no ties to the university.

(Photo illustration by Kacper Pempel of Reuters) (Photo illustration by Kacper Pempel of Reuters)

According to the Twitter account, hackers decided to target the university because a team of U-Va. computer scientists received a $40,000 grant from the Virginia Innovation Partnership to formulate code that could protect Web sites and sensitive information from hackers, a grant that the anonymous tweeter believes they “don’t deserve.”

The U-Va. site was compromised for less than an hour, between 9 and 10 p.m., according to the U-Va. student newspaper, the Cavalier Daily. The paper’s editor-in-chief, Kaz Komolafe, interviewed the hacker via Twitter. One response to her questioning: “We hacked it because we can. For fun, and because of the University’s lack of security. That sums it up.” (You can read the full Cavalier Daily article here: “‘Root the Box’ redirects University main page.“)

The university released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

The University of Virginia’s Information Technology Services department and Web Communications team responded quickly Monday night to address the defacement of the U.Va. home page. Members of both teams continue to investigate the incident. The University’s email system was not affected and no sensitive or confidential information was compromised.

The @R00tTh3B0x account answered questions and interacted with other tweeters on Monday night, including this exchange:




This story has been updated.