January 27, 2012

Investigation Into Anonymous E-mails to University Senators Completed; Report Cites Lone Sender

AN INVESTIGATION was completed by outside experts for the University of Illinois into a pair of anonymous e-mails sent to members of the University’s Academic Senates Conference (ASC), in connection with an enrollment management initiative. Conducted by Jones Day and Duff & Phelps, the investigation concluded there was no evidence of “hacking” or vulnerabilities in the network and concluded that the e-mails were drafted on and sent from the laptop of the former Chief of Staff to the President, and that the laptop was in her possession at the time the e-mails were created and sent.

THE TWO anonymous e-mails were sent on Dec. 12, 2011, and an inquiry was launched later that day to ascertain the source and whether the University’s information technology security was compromised. That inquiry was led by the University IT department. The incident was later reported to the University Ethics Office, which consulted with the IT department and assumed control of the investigation, assisted by the University’s chief legal counsel. On Dec. 22, the president approved the use of outside experts to assist in the investigation. External legal counsel Jones Day was retained, who engaged forensic data analyst Duff & Phelps to conduct an independent forensic analysis.

IN A final report, which was based on a comprehensive forensic examination of e-mails and computers, and interviews with relevant personnel, the investigative team drew the following conclusions:

  • The e-mails were composed and sent from the University laptop computer of Lisa Troyer. Examination of browser activity, firewall logs, e-mail headers, and e-mail fragments found on the Troyer laptop all support this conclusion. Troyer resigned her administrative post as Chief of Staff to President Michael J. Hogan effective immediately on Jan. 4.

  • The investigative record does not support a conclusion that any other person, including Hogan, knew that Troyer intended to send or had sent the anonymous e-mails.

  • Troyer’s laptop computer was not improperly accessed and was in her possession at the time the anonymous emails were sent. There is no evidence of hacking or vulnerabilities in the University network.

HOGAN THANKED the investigative team for its comprehensive and expeditious work in a four-week period that included the year-end holiday season, and expressed his disappointment in the events.

“THE INVESTIGATIVE team has made a thorough examination of the facts on which to base its conclusions. This was a disappointing event, and we have taken the necessary steps to address it,” Hogan said.

ON DEC. 12, 2011, two anonymous e-mails were sent to 20 members of the University of Illinois Senates Conference (USC). Both e-mails were identified in the text as having been written by an unnamed Senator, and the address from which the e-mails were sent, aboutintegrity@yahoo.com, did not identify a specific individual as the sender. One of the recipients noticed embedded data in the email indicated that it was created on a computer with the user account of “troyer.” This was quickly brought to the attention of the University IT department, the University ethics department, and the subsequent investigation ensued.

INVESTIGATORS REVIEWED more than 3,500 emails from Troyer’s University e-mail account from the month of December, and additional e-mails from the fall, which contained key search words. Troyer voluntarily supplied access to her personal gmail account and records of calls to and from her cell phone. Troyer, President Hogan, and others were interviewed, and Duff & Phelps performed a rigorous forensic analysis of the hard drive of Troyer’s laptop, examining Internet activity, browser history records and deleted material. They were able to verify that “the system’s firewall was functioning normally” … and the “activity found on the network security systems was consistent with activity found on the Troyer laptop.”

U OF I Board of Trustees Chair Christopher G. Kennedy said that the “misguided attempt by one individual to sway opinion” must not distract the University community from important work around the enrollment management initiative.

“THIS IS an unfortunate incident and a personal, ethical lapse which the president moved swiftly to investigate,” said Kennedy. “There is no relationship between this incident and good work being done on key initiatives, like the enrollment management plan, which is the result of months of research, hard work and consultation with faculty groups and others. The Board and the administration have made great progress toward improving this essential function, addressing concerns as they have been expressed. This important work will continue, unhindered.”

TROYER SERVED as the president’s chief of staff since July 2010. Troyer also holds an appointment as a tenured Professor of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Urbana campus and plans to transition to back to teaching and research.

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