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Felony For Refreshing a Web Page? 965

Posted by Zonk
from the dangerous-pixelantes dept.
therandomw writes "An 18 year-old boy was recently arrested in Ohio for telling fellow students to refresh the schools web page in order to slow down the server. He is being charged with a felony and is currently being held in jail. According to Canton City Prosecutor Frank Forchione 'This new technology has created a whole wave of crimes, and we're just trying to find ways to solve them.'"
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Felony For Refreshing a Web Page?

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  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:16PM (#14412505) Journal

    AFAIK this barely even brushes up against being a felony, but let the school officials have their fun! Had they just ignored this and let it go (maybe take the kid aside and dress him down a bit), this would have slipped off the radar in half a day. As it is, they've loaded, locked, and are about to fire, aiming right at their own feet.

    BTW, I'm just wondering who the first brave soul in slashdot is who will actually post the schools URL. (Also, BTW, it's pretty easily found in Google: Lake High School Uniontown Ohio, duh).

  • Oh Crap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by rodgster (671476) * <rodgster@yahoo . c om> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:16PM (#14412507) Journal
    Fark!

    I just commited 7 felonies waiting for this story to appear.

  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412510) Homepage
    This school must have a pretty bad webserver if simply clicking on refresh brings the server to its knees. I mean, it's not like they were generating millions of hits.
  • by Eyah....TIMMY (642050) * on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412511)
    ... after all the /. readers held down F5 to see if it really worked
  • Low-tech DDoS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kelson (129150) * on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412512) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like a distributed denial of service attack. He just left out the automation.

    Logically, the only thing that distinguishes a DoS from the Slashdot Effect is intent. If your intent is to spread awareness of the material that appears on a server, and the server can't handle it, well, that's tough for the server, but that's how the Internet works. If your intent is to take the server down, that's illegal.

    Up until now, most deliberate attacks were automated, making it easy to separate overwhelming legit traffic from attacks -- but that's only really as accurate as trying to separate legitimate city traffic from criminals by assuming that anyone on foot is a burglar.

    Of course, when you get down to the level of intent, you get to his contention that "Help me crash my school's server" was a joke, and that he wasn't actually trying to get people to follow through. And things get murky.
    • by Skye16 (685048) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:34PM (#14412704)
      Since his intent was to crash the school server, even as a joke, then his intent was to crash the school server. It doesn't look very good for him.

      Of course, they would have been better off letting him slide than making a few hundred thousand / million geeks curious all at once. That server probably unhooked its own ethernet cable, packed up its keyboard and mouse, and walked out the front door by now. Or it melted and dripped all over the carpet.
    • Well I clicked the link to the schools homepage, KNOWING that I would help bring it down.

      Whatcha gonna do, punk!
    • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AxemRed (755470) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:50PM (#14412868)
      I agree that what he did amounts to a DDoS attack. That's what it was, but on a small scale. But I feel like, the punishment should fit the crime.

      When someone steals $50000, they get charged with a felony and go to jail.
      When someone steals $10, the get charged with a misdemeanor and get community service.
      When someone steals $10 at high school, they get suspended.

      When someone speeds 50mph over the speed limit, they get their license suspended.
      When someone speeds 15mph over the speed limit, they get a $100 ticket.
      When someone speeds in the high school parking lot, they get detention.

      Now lets try this...
      When someone mounts a large-scale DDoS against a major portal, they get arrested and charged with a felony
      When someone mounts a tiny DDoS against their high school, they get... arrested and charged with a felony?

      //You get my point. He deserved a week suspension. Why can't schools handle things in-house anymore?
    • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raoul666 (870362)
      Logically, the only thing that distinguishes a DoS from the Slashdot Effect is intent. If your intent is to spread awareness of the material that appears on a server, and the server can't handle it, well, that's tough for the server, but that's how the Internet works. If your intent is to take the server down, that's illegal.

      I agree, but it begs the question: what if someone submitted a story to /. with the intent to crash the server of his enemy? Is that illegal? If so, was it his wrongdoing, /.'s, ours
    • Re:Low-tech DDoS? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ebyrob (165903)
      but that's only really as accurate as trying to separate legitimate city traffic from criminals by assuming that anyone on foot is a burglar.

      Note: If you assumed foot-traffic was criminals you'd also instantly make things like public demonstration illegal...

      Which is interesting, because having lots of people manually refresh a page is a lot more akin to asking a whole crowd of street people to come hang out in your school parking lot and make it impossible to park versus say throwing down caltrops.

      Which one
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412514) Homepage Journal
    This problem can be solved through software already -- the school didn't take necessary means to avoid such a simple "DoS" style attack.

    Even so, it seems crazy to me to waste taxpayer dollars chasing down this citizen and even more dollars prosecuting him. While the law is supposed to be around to protect property, I don't see how this is a felony. He didn't do the refreshing, did he? He used his right to speak freely.

    I'm sure I'll hear the standard arguments about how speech can be regulated and I repudiate all of them. Crying fire in a theatre is private property -- the Constitution protects nothing on private property and the theatre owner is responsible for setting the standards of speech. Telling someone how to make a bomb is also free expression/speech -- you're not making the bomb. In this case, if clicking excessively is a crime (I can't believe it would be), the people who did the act should be indicted.

    I'd love to see what real crimes are happening right now in Canton City -- murders, rapes, thefts. Speeding tickets and telling people to refresh a website repeatedly are nothing compared to real property crime. The last quote about trying to solve them reads more to me like they're "trying to find ways to exploit them."

    For the school -- they can now expect this to happen more often. The publicity in charging this guy is going to be mostly negative in the minds of the students. All we need now is to get the link visible on slashdot, right?
    • by User 956 (568564) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:22PM (#14412580) Homepage
      This problem can be solved through software already -- the school didn't take necessary means to avoid such a simple "DoS" style attack.

      Judging by this quote, it sounds like they don't even really have a grasp on what kind of "attack" it was.

      "It's a crime and it is important we take this seriously ... especially for school officials ... it could have done a tremendous amount of damage," said Canton City Prosecutor Frank Fronchione.

      Causing a tremendous amount of damage? WTF? He's not DDoSing Air Traffic Control. What a total load. This kid should sue these jackasses for libel, false arrest, and harassment.

    • by cavemanf16 (303184) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:25PM (#14412613) Homepage Journal
      It's not "Canton City", it's just Canton. And, after having visited there recently, I can tell you it's a midwest town - NOT a city - where life moves just a bit slower than the rest of the country. You can tell by Mr. Fanchione's comments on the article that the police are "trying to teach this youngin' a lesson!" and think they're just so smart for arresting this kid. I agree with your sentiments about how important this really is in the face of actually dangerous stuff. There were all kinds of buildings in that town that probably need to be condemned because they're a fire and health hazard, but no, the 'authorities' are busy arresting kids smarter than they are.
      • by qtothemax (766603) on Friday January 06, 2006 @08:35PM (#14413722)
        It may not be a big east coast city, but it certainly does have its crime and bad areas in the wake if the steel mills closing. Is Gary Indiana, ~100,000 people, a midwestern town where life moves a little slower? Gary has the highest crime rate in the country. Gary is an extension of Chicago, and Canton is an extension of Cleveland/Akron. Former steel towns are not nice places.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:32PM (#14412681) Homepage Journal

      He didn't do the refreshing, did he? He used his right to speak freely.

      It is specifically illegal to incite others to commit a crime.

    • Crying fire in a theatre is private property -- the Constitution protects nothing on private property and the theatre owner is responsible for setting the standards of speech.

      You don't make any sense.

      Under your interpretation of free speech, it would be perfectly fine to cry "fire" in a public place (say, the Capitol building) and you would bear no responsibility for the resulting chaos that ensued, even if people were trampled to death during the panic.

      That's ridiculous.
      • Under your interpretation of free speech, it would be perfectly fine to cry "fire" in a public place (say, the Capitol building) and you would bear no responsibility for the resulting chaos that ensued, even if people were trampled to death during the panic.

        Congress shall make NO LAW... who doesn't make any sense?

        If I scream fire in the Capitol building, and you trample another -- you committed the violent act. If I hear someone yell fire, I look, I smell, I consider.

        Oh, when I was younger my parents' hou
    • Crying fire in a theatre is private property -- the Constitution protects nothing on private property and the theatre owner is responsible for setting the standards of speech.

      Um ... no.

      You think murder is legal/constitutional on private property? Or wiretapping? Or cruel and unusual punishment?

      Crying fire in a crowded theatre -- as an example of the limits of free expression -- is the same regardless of whether the theatre is privately or publicly owned.

      All of that said, getting folks to click "refresh" is
  • by NaruVonWilkins (844204) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412517)
    and you've got a new way to fill the jails!
  • by jkauzlar (596349) * on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412520) Homepage
    Lake High School [k12.oh.us]
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:17PM (#14412521) Journal
    http://lake.stark.k12.oh.us/ [k12.oh.us] was offline before I could even find its url in Google.
  • the media (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:18PM (#14412526) Homepage
    I love the complete bullshit way this article [wkyc.com] frames the situation. He didn't put a link, he "created a website, which connected to the school's system." ooo.. sinister.. yeah...

    • by Stevyn (691306)
      It should have said:

      "He hacked into a web server (logged into blogspot) and modified the internal structure of it's files system (uploaded a web page) that created a "hyperlink" to the school's entire computer infrastructure (link to http://lake.stark.k12.oh.us/hs [k12.oh.us]). He then called upon his gang of evil cohourts to help him destroy their "servers" (asked people even more bored than him to visit that page and press F5 a few times until they realized it was as dumb as reading the blog). This caused a massive
  • by shystershep (643874) * <bdshepherd AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:18PM (#14412529) Homepage Journal

    New, only on Slashdot, the Outrage-O-Matic!!

    Simply take the bare facts of a story, throw in some out-of-context quotes and counter-factual insinuations, and that boring story about some punk's criminal mischief is suddenly about the Man's insane overreaction to a harmless prank!

    It's fun for the whole family! Get yours today!

  • Holy Crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by jandrese (485) * <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:18PM (#14412531) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot is in a heap of trouble.
  • by bushboy (112290) <lttc@lefthandedmonkeys.org> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:20PM (#14412555) Homepage
    .. Canton City just got their first set of traffic lights installed.

    Frank Forchione was quoted as saying :-

    "Hot Diggidy, this new fangled technology sure is mighty fine !, but it's created a whole wave of crimes, and we'll just have to find ways to solve them."
  • by multiplexo (27356) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:20PM (#14412558) Journal
    to press all of the buttons on an elevator at once?

  • Video of Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by wike (742888) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:20PM (#14412561) Homepage
    Here's a link to a video newstory that provides some more details: http://www.wkyc.com/video/player.aspx?aid=18650&si d=45721&bw= [wkyc.com] This story has been up on Digg.com for a few hours, the school's website has been down most of the day
  • Number of hits (Score:5, Informative)

    by Silverlancer (786390) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:25PM (#14412618)
    According to the folks at Fark, who got to it before the slashdotting, it only had about 900 hits total. Come on, they crashed the server in NINE HUNDRED HITS?!
    • Re:Number of hits (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pdbogen (596723)
      According to TFA (I forgive you for not reading it.. this is slashdot, after all), they server admins noticed a slowdown and caught on.

      FWIW, for everyone lambasting assuming that "connected to" means "linked to," it's possible that the kid's web page loaded the school's in fifteen hundred IFRAMES (and if the school's website is set to no-cache, which is probably likely, this could be trouble), and also that their hit counter only registers unique IP addresses.

      /Devil's Advocate
      //Are these allowed on slashd
    • Jesus. I could handle 900 hits by tapping it out personally over the bloody phone line with one of those morse code thingys.
  • School (Score:5, Funny)

    by taskforce (866056) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:27PM (#14412640) Homepage
    The school in question is Lake High School in Uniontown Ohio.

    http://lake.stark.k12.oh.us/ [k12.oh.us]

    The site is actually down, which is a shame; it would have been a nice oppurtunity to see if we could get Zonk thrown in jail for posting it on the Slashdot front page.

  • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:28PM (#14412650)
    "18 year old man arrested for DDoSing his schools website by encouraging other students to quickly click refresh. In retaliation for his incarciration, he used his telephone call to call his freind Stevie, whom he told to post to /. and all the schools servers were /.ed."
  • by Psionicist (561330) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:30PM (#14412659)
    This doesn't make any sense, at all.

    - If a boy tells his friend to reload a webpage, he gets thrown into jail and gets felony charges.
    - A lone spammer gets $11 billion in fines.
    - If joe sixpack downloads a movie he gets huge fines.

    Yet, if a medium to large corporation sell/delete customer records, infect consumers computers with spyware or the like, they only get a slap on the wrist?

    When did corporations get more freedoms than individuals?
  • DoS not Refresh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garver (30881) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:30PM (#14412662)
    He arranged a Denial of Service attack. Think of his "fellow students" as zombies and him as a script kiddie, then pretend you're the admin or legit user of this site. Now tell me you wouldn't be a wee bit perturbed. This is akin to willfull destruction of property and saying he's only guilt of refreshing a browser is like saying a car thief is only guilt of moving your car.

    A felony is a bit harsh though. Perhaps there were significant damages involved. Or the cops are out of control.
  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:32PM (#14412683) Journal
    Last year, an article on the WEWS Channel 5 website had this gem of a quote:

    "School officials are not sure they [know] what has caused so many pregnancies..."

    Someone needs to get these people a clue-bat.
  • intent matters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:33PM (#14412694) Homepage Journal
    if i break your arm because i didn't see you standing behind me while i was moving a heavy piece of furniture, then there should be mild repercussions

    if i break your arm by taking it, looking dead in your eye, and twisting it as hard as i can, then there should be severe repercussions

    the whole issue is one of intent

    intent matters in this world, and any opinion that ignores intent, about this kid, or a whole range of modern problems in this world, is not a useful or valid opinion
  • As a concerned user of fully patched Gentoo, I have tested the "F5 causes excessive reloading" vulnerability. It works on Konqueror, Mozilla and Firefox, with all patches installed, including hardened kernel. Local access to the machine is NOT required; the F5 vulnerability can be triggered when opening a web browser through, e.g., SSH forwarded X connections.

    I hope there will be a patch soon!
  • by Jotii (932365) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:35PM (#14412715) Homepage

    This new technology has created a whole wave of crimes

    Behold the refresh button, the wonder of modern technology.

  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:36PM (#14412730)
    Cmdrtaco & Drew Curtis should be on death row!
  • by rdmiller3 (29465) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:40PM (#14412761) Journal
    So they toss a kid into jail because he said, "Click here to crash my school's wussy server."

    Yes, it's a low-tech sort of DDoS attack but it's not automated. He didn't actually do it himself. It involved the willful cooperation of other individuals. That makes it more like a "grassroots movement".

    What if he had said, "Send an info request letter to my school, to swamp the mail-room," hmm?? That's the hardcopy version of what he did. Would he get thrown in jail for that?

    I can understand that people wouldn't be pleased by this kid inciting a bit of social disruption, but calling it a felony and throwing him in jail is far too extreme.

  • by Irvu (248207) on Friday January 06, 2006 @06:48PM (#14412851)
    There was a time when we made an important distinction between types of crimes. Misdemeanors were "minor crimes" annoyances that can be cleared up easily enough and are a) not worth making permanent and b) best forgotten once the problems is solved. A classic example is littering, or spraypainting something on a park bench. The former is solved by making the littebug pick up their garbage (and mabye some other peoples') and the latter by having the offendor repaint the bench brown. In both cases the offence can be "fixed" and the individual can learn form a simple dressing down. In most juristictions misdemeanors are not even recorded (or didn't used to be) and never ever became part of someone's permanent criminal record (especially a minor). Moreover misdemeanors aren't liable for jail time above and beyond "time served" (in the drunk tank).

    Felonies are major or "permanent" crimes such as theft, maim, and murder. They connotate crimes that cannot be simply "cleaned up", crimes that cannot be undone in any meaningful sense and crimes that may signal permanent problems for the individual in question. Felonies attatch much stiffer penalties (for both juveniles and adults) as well as "permanence". In some states felons lose the right to vote permanently. This is politely known as "Civil Disenfranchisement". In Midevil times it was associated with the term "Civil Death". Felons are also forbidden from obtaining some jobs (in government), and have to tell all other employers of their status. They are also often forbidden from obtaining some scholarships and grants. While not all of these attatch automatically to juvenile felons many of them do. Increasing numbers of states are making no distinction between juvenile felonies and adult felonies. Unlike midsdemeanor crimes felons are truly marked for life.

    The basic upshot of this is that this kid could be harmed for life for what is, in essence, a nothing crime. He encouraged people to visit a website and thereby caused a server to run slow, not stop, not crash, not burst into flames, just run slow. This is a temporary problem, a fixable problem, and one that doesn't even require two coats of paint.

    This is a dangerous, vicious overreaction on the part of the city prosecutor, and the school officials. They are abusing their power and risk punishing a kid for life for something that should be handled by a stern talking to and no dessert.

    Some ex convicts carry around a felony conviction that prevents them from re-entering society or impairs them in some way thus encouraging a return to crime. How much worse is that when the conviction is for something less-damaging than littering.

    On another note, I wonder when the prosecutor's up for reelection?
  • The best quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitalgimpus (468277) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:29PM (#14413224) Homepage
    The best quote on this is:


    "It's a crime and it is important we take this seriously ... especially for school officials ... it could have done a tremendous amount of damage," said Canton City Prosecutor Frank Fronchione.


    HA! An overloaded server is damage? Tremendous?

    I think this guy is trying to turn an overloaded school website (like anyone visits that anyway) into a mini-9/11.

    Tremendous Damage is essentially reserved for 9/11, Oklahoma City, type damage.

    IMHO that's borderline slander since it's extremely unlike for any true damage, forget about "Tremendous".

    Those are just words to get in the paper, at the expense of someone else's reputation.

    If I were that kids parents, I'd consider a lawsuit. Then again, nobody ever wins a lawsuit against a prosecutor.
  • by Wansu (846) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:56PM (#14413438)


    In the 60s, when I was growing up, only real bad offenses were deemed felonies. Murder, Rape, Arson, Armed Robbery and other stuff like that. Then along comes a new breed of careerist prosecutors and grandstanding politicians, all one-uping each other to see who could be toughest on crime. They're ratcheted damn near everything up to felony status. Are there any misdimeanors anymore?

    In my state and others, many drug offenses carry longer mandatory minimum sentences than violent crimes. I was buying ammo recently at a gun shop. There was a sticker beside the register which warned of a 10 year sentence for buying a firearm for someone who shouldn't have one. Well, there ought to be a serious penalty for that but Armed Bank Robbery carries a 7 year penalty. Either the illegal gun purchase should carry a shorter penalty or the violent robbery should carry more. It's nuts.

    These officials who slapped the HS kid with a felony say they're doing it to send a message. This is zero tolerance run amuk. All this felonizing of picayune offenses reminds me of something Deep Purple Ian Gilliam joked about on the Made In Japan album, "Make everything louder than everthing else."

  • by jnaujok (804613) on Friday January 06, 2006 @07:59PM (#14413465) Homepage Journal
    Excuse me for pointing this out, but where exactly are the damages that relate to this felony. If this kid finds a lawyer with even an ounce of brains, the court case should last thirty seconds.

    Lawyer: Why do you have a web site?

    School: So the public can access it.

    Lawyer: So, is the same machine running it today?

    School: Yes.

    Lawyer: Does it run on the same connection?

    School: Yes.

    Lawyer: And it runs the same software, with the same data?

    School: Yes.

    Lawyer: So, in fact, nothing was erased or altered on the machine in any way? Correct?

    School: Yes.

    Lawyer: Did your service provider charge you with any extra fees?

    School: No.

    Lawyer: So, apart from a handful of extra traffic, which you admit slowed down but did not stop, damage, or destroy hardware, software, or data, and which did not cost you any extra money, you had not other damages?

    School: Uhm, well, I guess that's correct.

    Lawyer: Tell me, do you sue the driver in front of you if he slows down, or charge the slow walking grandmother holding up the line with a felony?

    School: Uhm, no.

    Lawyer: Tell me, if all the phone lines are in use at the school because people are calling them, is that a felony? Are prank calls a felony?

    School: Er, no.

    Lawyer: So, your basis for the "damage" in this case is that a student basically asked his friends to "call-up" the computer until you had a busy signal.

    School: Yes.

    Lawyer: In fact, your entire web site listed less than 900 hits before it was Slashdotted into oblivion. Tell me, have you started legal proceedings against the news agency that took the story national, or Zonk for posting it on Slashdot?

    School: Erm, no.

    Lawyer: So, you're only willing to harrass young children? To send a child to prison for what amounts to no more than a phone call where they hang up? Is that what you feel is acceptable? Is that, in fact, what you view as teaching our children?

    School: Er, do I have to answer that?

    Lawyer: Well, you are making me wait, keeping me busy, I might have to file a felony suit against you for that...
  • This is pretty sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smchris (464899) on Friday January 06, 2006 @09:00PM (#14413972)
    "Michael said it was a joke," Forchione said. "We showed him how we deal with this kind of joke."

    Being 18, they showed him, indeed, considering he will have a felony in the database tracking him for the rest of his life. In lieu of a job, I guess he can get a book from Loompanics on how to cook meth and be a drug dealer.

    But I suppose they had to balance the ethical issues to reach a wise decision. I mean, it's hard to imagine the horror of school web sites crashing around the country. That would send a signal that we're weak on terra.

    The more the idea takes hold in my mind, the easier it is to see examples of what cowardly bullies Americans are. Yup, the Canton police really showed this kid what happens when you mess with the school web site. "Take that computer-using high school kid!"

    Maybe Kevin Mitnick can get him gigs speaking at the high school circuit?

  • by cbreaker (561297) on Friday January 06, 2006 @09:53PM (#14414334) Journal
    Call the FBI.
    From Internet Explorer:

    The page cannot be displayed
    The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.

    ------

    Please try the following:

    Click the Refresh button, or try again later.

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