UC Grant Processing Platform Suffers Hacking Attempt

A hacker purportedly attempted to access the Undergraduate Council's new software for processing funding applications this week, according to UC treasurer Nicholas D. Boucher ’19.

A third party with no ties to Harvard tried to hack the software, dubbed "nova" and rolled out earlier this month, on Feb. 20 at around 4 p.m., Boucher said. He added that hacks of the kind are common with software like nova, and that he and the Council’s Finance Committee—the group mainly tasked with reviewing grant applications—remain unconcerned.

“It was not a super-big deal,” he said. “Realistically, these things are commonplace in the technical world and like any good system, I built this system to withstand these things.”

Nova, which stands for New Online-system for Vetting Applications, launched earlier this semester and has so far processed 111 grants. While students still submit grant applications like they did in previous semesters, nova allows applicants to track the status of their grants online.

Each year, the UC is responsible for fulfilling thousands of funding requests to undergraduate student organizations. This year, the Council has roughly $300,000 in its coffers to fund student groups and events.

“Nova allows us as Finance Committee members to process interviews in a single interface, and by having all this data in a single interface, it allows users to track the status of the grant online,” Boucher said in an interview before the Finance Committee's Wednesday meeting. The platform also allows students to submit receipts online and view information about grant interviews.

Boucher also said he intends to make all nova data public, as the UC’s budget is partially funded by students. Each academic year, the College asks students to pay an optional $75 UC Activities fee.

“In the future there will be a public-facing portal where people can see raw data about who we give grants to, how much we give grants for, the types of things for which we give grants. We’re just going to make that publicly available,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is student money that we’re giving out.”

During the Finance Committee's meeting Wednesday night, the group recommended to distribute $8,659.35 in grants. The UC as a whole will decide whether or not to go ahead with the Finance Committee’s recommendations at its next general meeting on Sunday. Typically, the Committee has a $10,000 weekly budget, from which Boucher said the body rarely deviates. .

—Staff writer Andrew J. Zucker can be reached at andrew.zucker@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJZucker.

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