Company That Powers College Career Sites Searched by FBI

May 17, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

The company that powers campus recruiting services, including NACElink, is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly attempting to hack into the computer systems of two competitors.

The investigation doesn’t involve NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Nor is there any evidence that NACElink was ever hacked or that any attempt was made to illegally access the system. However, Marilyn Mackes, executive director of the nonprofit association, says the organization is monitoring the situation and has been sending periodic updates to its member schools and employers.

“Is NACE going to be looking out for the interests of its members,” Mackes said rhetorically. “Of course it is.”

At this point, she says, it is “kind of premature” for the organization to make any decisions about the hosting of its career services network. 

NACE connects college career services professionals and employers of new college graduates, providing them with research on placements, salaries, internships, and other issues relevant to college recruiting. One of those services is NACElink, in essence, a college job board network.

Technical management of NACElink is provided by Symplicity Corporation. The Virginia company provides the platform and the data warehousing for the service.

Symplicity’s offices and its data center were searched by the FBI, which seized a number of computers, drives, storage devices and some documents. It declined questions, but issued this statement in response to my email:

As this matter is in very early stages, it would be premature for us to comment on your questions. We can say that we have cooperated fully with investigators and look forward to putting this matter behind us as quickly as possible.  We can provide further information at that time, and are eager to do so.  Most importantly, we are certain that none of this will have any impact on our product deliveries or customer service and, for Symplicity, it’s business as usual.

NACElink is only one of Symplicity’s programs. Through its career services manager technology, the company offers recruitment programs geared to business schools offering MBAs, law schools, and others. Its partners include DirectEmployers Association, InterviewStream, and Going Global.

Besides recruitment, Symplicity also provides admissions management, student conduct tracking technology, asset and inventory management, and several more programs, including versions for higher education, government, commercial, and non-profit sectors.

In 2002, Symplicity made a bid to run the federal Office of Personnel Management’s career site, The contract was awarded to Monster, but, after Symplicity protested and the General Accountability Office upheld it, the contract was rebid and Monster again won. (The government decided last fall to take back operation of the site, and almost immediately found itself floundering.)

According to a search warrantfiled in connection with the investigation, Symplicity and its founder and CEO Ariel Friedler are under suspicion for allegedly attempting to access computer networks operated by Maxient and Pave Systems. The companies compete with Symplicity in the student conduct technology area.

The search warrant alleges that,

The United States, including the FBI, is investigating a series of unauthorized access attempts, some of which were successful, into the computer systems of Maxient, LLC (Maxient) and Pave Systems, computer software companies that produce Student Conduct Records Management systems. …these attempts to access Maxient’s and Pave’s computer system appear to have originated with a competitor, Symplicity Corporation…

The FBI searched both the company headquarters and its data center, seizing computer drives, storage units, laptops, CDs, and some documents. Details on what was found, or where the investigation is headed next were not provided.

Pave Systems has a statement posted on its website. Maxient has so far made no public comment.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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