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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, August 13, 2009
College probes e-mail breach

Florida Keys Community College officials have hired an outside investigator to scrutinize the school's e-mail system in light of an alleged breach of security that allowed someone to gain access to the college president's e-mail account and forward three of her messages to various people.

The sender's name was shown as John Kehoe, the college's vice president of financial and administrative services, who denies any knowledge of the incident.

"At first blush, our [Information Technology] guys seem to think this originated from an e-mail server other than our own here at the college," Kehoe said Wednesday. "But we are contracting with an outside, third-party investigator to look at the potential security breach."

College board Chairman Spencer Slate said the college is dealing with a criminal matter and the investigation goes deeper than the college.

"We've been told it's illegal, that it's criminal and we're dealing with it as such," Slate said.

The investigator will conduct "network penetration testing" for the e-mail system, college spokeswoman Amber Ernst-Leonard said, adding that school officials are taking the matter "very seriously."

The e-mails were a conversation between Slate and President Jill Landesberg-Boyle in early May that detailed questions about "Driscoll," a man who had claimed he sent information to Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward. Key West resident Mike Driscoll, a rejected board candidate, has been a vocal opponent of the college and its president, and previously has told The Citizen he sent a 100-page report about the president's alleged misspending to the Florida Auditor General's Office.

The e-mail was forwarded to Slate, former Chairman Ed Scales, board member Kim Bassett and a newspaper reporter.

"I just don't know what to say," Kehoe said. "Someone is really trying to be disruptive."

The college has reset all passwords and shredded any documents pertaining to passwords, Kehoe said. Boyle and Kehoe have changed their passwords to something only they know, Information Technology Director Bryan Gilchrist wrote in a memo to Kehoe outlining his actions to prevent further breaches. Passwords now contain two uppercase letters, two lowercase letters and two numbers to ensure the most secure password, Gilchrist wrote.

"All of these precautions are being taken in an attempt to mitigate this occurring in the future," the memo states. "We cannot investigate the possible e-mail breach any further until we have access to Dr. Boyle's computer, and will do so, ASAP." Boyle is on vacation this week.

The college is embroiled in rumors, innuendo and allegations against Landesberg-Boyle. An anonymous group has launched a Web site at http://www.savefkcc.com that allows anonymous posts disparaging her and board members.

The group calls itself a watchdog organization dedicated to "monitoring our local state-run higher educational facilities in our county (Florida Keys Community College) for fraud, wasteful spending, abuse, harassment, sexual harassment, corruption, mismanagement, retaliation to its employees and students, nepotism in the workplace, misused of taxpayers and state funds, incompetency resulting in a low quality education experience provided to the community, illegal activity, campaign donor influence, abuse of authority, miscarriage of justice, violation of the United States Civil Rights Act, the American Disabilities Act and so forth."

The Web site hosting company does not list the site's creator or registration information.

mbolen@keysnews.com

Citizen staffer John Guerra contributed to this report.

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