Princeton student discovers university LDAP server leaves personal data exposed

A Princeton University student who discovered the school's LDAP server exposed private student information to the public has shut down access to that information on his Web site after the school tightened security.

Accessing the LDAP server would reveal, among other things, dorm addresses, student ID numbers, personal s-mail addresses and student-away messages and the dates they would be posted.

The student, Dan Li, set up a Web site that let visitors access that data for specific Princeton students based on their Princeton e-mail addresses. But he has disabled the search, saying that he had accomplished his goal of raising awareness about the situation.

The university's Web site used to include specific instructions how to access the data, but since Li's awareness campaign, has removed it, replacing it with a warning.

"Unix access to Princeton University's electronic directory information is provided solely for the systems and business use of the University community," the site says now. "Those attempting to reach a specific individual should use standard search mechanisms through the University's home page (www.princeton.edu). Any frivolous or unauthorized use of the information available via this directory search is forbidden. Any solicitation of business, information, contributions or other response from individuals listed in this directory by mail, e-mail, telephone or other means is forbidden. This directory cannot be duplicated, sold or distributed in any manner without explicit permission from Princeton's Office of the President."

Li says on his Web page that students can get more information than people accessing from outside the university, but it is still worrying that non-Princeton visitors could get as much as he did.

"What's shocking is that Princeton University publishes all this information via its LDAP directory," Li says on his Web page. "Not just to other Princeton students -- they get see even more about their classmates: university ID numbers, pictures, birthdays and so on -- but to anybody with an Internet connection. The university makes it easy to find this information, too ..."

Li says he thinks that some of the information available via the LDAP server was protected by privacy laws.

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