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Does Hacking Grades Warrant 20 Years in Jail? 455

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the pushment-fitting-the-crime dept.
While there have been many students who decided they would rather change their grades than come by them the usual way, the punishments for the most part have been pretty reasonable. However, the latest chapter in this type of behavior finds two culprits facing a $250,000 fine and 20 years in jail based on the number of charges leveled against them. "The guys have been charged with "unauthorized computer access, identity theft, conspiracy, and wire fraud." Obviously, these guys did a bad thing, but it's hard to see how the possible sentence matches with the crime. Of course, it seems unlikely that any judge would give them the maximum sentence, but even hearing that it's possible just for changing your grades seems ridiculous."
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Does Hacking Grades Warrant 20 Years in Jail?

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  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahooBLUE.com minus berry> on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:07PM (#21244627) Homepage Journal
    TFA and the post author confuse the issue by saying that these guys are getting punished for the end result (changing their grades), rather than the method (hacking an admin account, using that access to hack other accounts, stealing privileged information, AND taking cash to change someone's grades).

    Imagine some jerkwad walked into a 7-11, got a Slurpee, tried to walk out without paying for it, then shot the clerk when the clerk confronted him. Then imagine the Slashdot article saying "this guy could get the death penalty just for stealing a Slurpee."

    That's an extreme example, but it gets my message across. They're being prosecuted not only for what they did, but how they did it.

    Also, if you read the original press release [usdoj.gov] from the DOJ, it states: "The charged counts carry a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. However, the actual sentence will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables, and any applicable statutory sentencing factors."

    So even the Feds, while stating the maximum possible sentence (probably for the deterrence value), are admitting that the actual sentence depends on a lot of factors and probably won't be the maximum. Although giving these guys double-dimes in the pen would send a message.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dsanfte (443781)

      That's an extreme example, but it gets my message across.


      The correct term for that is 'hyperbole'.

      A better analogy would be stealing the key to the secretary's office, and then loaning it out for a fee. In that case it they would be charged with a misdemeanor and be treated quite differently than someone who had held up a bank.
      • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous@yahooBLUE.com minus berry> on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:32PM (#21245019) Homepage Journal
        "A better analogy would be stealing the key to the secretary's office, and then loaning it out for a fee."

        So you don't think that the unauthorized access to the secretary's office with a stolen key would be charged as breaking and entering? That the stealing the key for the purpose of loaning it out for a fee wouldn't add additional counts of accessory to burglary, aiding and abetting, etc. They wouldn't tack on conspiracy, vandalism, fraud, and whatever else they thought they could make stick?

        And when you tallied up all the maximum sentences for all those crimes, wouldn't they be in the neightborhood of 20 years?

        Hmmm?
        • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:20PM (#21245669) Homepage Journal
          You're right. The grandparent might be wondering what happened to his brilliant legal career, but I'm not.

          Bottom line -- it doesn't matter why he did it, it only matters what he did. We don't go easier on defendants who murder someone because they were only trying to keep everyone from finding out about their secret extramarital love affair.

          OTOH, we do go easier on defendants who steal a $100,000 car to go joyriding. Technically, they could be charged with grand theft auto, but because joyriders generally return the car from whence it came, we call it a misdemeanor and give them a little community service instead of 15 years in prison.

          There are complex legal issues that need to be sorted out and dealt with when it comes to computer criminal statues, especially becuause they are so new. On one hand, kids who break into a system just to prove they can should get an easier sentence, just like the joyriders, IMHO. OTOH, changing grades, while juvenile, is breaking into a system for purposes of committing fraud. It's technically no different than the guy who breaks into a computer system to produce a fake id or to alter financial records.

          Public policy on criminal penalties usually boils down to legislatures and jurists deciding severity based on the amount of damage to society.

          The real question is -- is the kid who changed grades damaging society as much as the guy who breaks in to the bank computer to transfer $1 million into his personal account, a few cents at a time over the next 10 years?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            blockquoteOTOH, changing grades, while juvenile, is breaking into a system for purposes of committing fraud. It's technically no different than the guy who breaks into a computer system to produce a fake id or to alter financial records./blockquote Not if Ferris Bueller made me do it!
            • by GooberToo (74388) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:26PM (#21246505)
              And let's not forget there is a lot to win here. The right grades from the right school make the difference between a five digit and a six digit starting salary. Since they took money, seems like serious punishments should be considered. This obviously was not just a curious, dumb, teenager.

              Having said that, 20 years is by far too much for something like this. Some murders don't do this. People often forget just how harsh prisons are. Even a year in prison, plus a criminal record as a lifetime punishment, really is a significant penalty to pay. A criminal conviction can easily place an upper limit on their yearly legal income. Let's not forgot that simply being convicted, for a white collar criminal, means punishment for the rest of their life, by means of where they can likely be hired.
              • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 05, 2007 @07:35PM (#21248167)

                Having said that, 20 years is by far too much for something like this. Some murders don't do this.

                And most likely the final sentence (as was already stated) will not be twenty years. If you want to compare to murder, since we only have the maximum sentence for these crimes, we'll have to compare to the maximum sentence for murder. Speaking from the experience of a member of my family who was shot in their home by a thief trying to pay for their drug habit, the list of charges were (roughly): breaking and entering, illegal possession of a concealed weapon without license, possession controlled substances, theft, and felony murder. The perpetrator received a life sentence, and was released from prison on parole after less than ten years. I would imagine that even if the maximum sentence is given, the perpetrators will be eligible for parole in five years or less.
          • by NiceGeek (126629) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:05PM (#21246191)
            "Bottom line -- it doesn't matter why he did it, it only matters what he did. We don't go easier on defendants who murder someone because they were only trying to keep everyone from finding out about their secret extramarital love affair."

            Incorrect. Motive and mental state are often used to determine punishment. Manslaughter, 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, etc.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:46PM (#21246769)
            (Posting as AC for obvious reasons..)

            It does sound like such a tiny thing to go to prison for.. so you have the password to a server that tracks school grades so what? But because such a staggering amount of America's financial security is invested in insecure computer networks, they have to have extreme max penalties for hacking law violations- there have [wikipedia.org] been [wikipedia.org] hackers who caused millions in damages, and that's why the max penalties are so high- but the actual penalties are lower.. this 15 year old kid [wikipedia.org] hacked the department of defense in 1999 and only recieved 6 months in prision (because he violated his house-arrest parole). Of course the system does sometimes fail [wikipedia.org] but for the most part things are in place to allow a fair judge to hand down a fair sentence.

            On to the part that I'm posting AC for, and why I'm replying to this particular parent.. when I was 17 I successfully got the highest-level access on my whole university's network (though I didn't even know it at the time). My friends ratted me out and I faced these charges and their terrifying max sentences.. but when the investigators found out that I hadn't actually done anything at all with it, and that in fact it was just on a disk forgotten under my bed for 3 weeks before they found me, they didn't even press charges! It was truly a case of:

            kids who break into a system just to prove they can
            as you said.. other areas of law like copyright law and intellectual property need to be rewritten for the internet age but I think they've done a pretty good job setting things up for hacking legislation.
      • by AvitarX (172628)
        Except the cost of remedy for a stolen key is rather cheap.

        Change lock, redistribute new key, and maybe make sure there is nothing left behind (a broken window lock for instance).

        Cracking multiple accounts (including an admin account)leaves the very real possibility of rootkits installed on machines, backdoors left all over the place.

        Getting admin access allows you to leave invisible doors that only remodeling the room will fix (to over stretch a terrible analogy even further).
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:14PM (#21244737)
      For a better analogy, picture, "Hey John, I'll give you $5 if you steal Mrs. Smith's gradebook, change my grade in it, and put it back." This sounds identical to the list of crimes you made, only committed with a pencil rather than a computer. The problem here is that old lawmakers are more afraid of computers (because they don't know how they work), and thus are making equivalent crimes more severe if they involve a computer instead of a pencil.

      Now ask yourself if getting paid $5 to steal Mrs. Smith's gradebook and change a grade is worth 20 years in jail. Does it become worth a longer sentence if you have to be smarter to accomplish the same task?
      • There is a big difference in that this person had access to all the data on the computer system. So really, its like teach tracked students by SSN and kept a record of all their past grades, and other personal information. Also, the number of bad acts required to accomplish the task is greater; so they guys are breaking into the teachers lounge and stealing the keys to the storage room and then breaking into the storage room to change the grades. These guys don't deserve 20 years, but people committing t
      • by i7dude (473077) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:50PM (#21245281)
        Now ask yourself if getting paid $5 to steal Mrs. Smith's gradebook and change a grade is worth 20 years in jail. Does it become worth a longer sentence if you have to be smarter to accomplish the same task?

        As others have stated before me, its really not the act of changing the grades thats so bad. Its the methods employed in doing so.

        Manually changing a grade in a gradebook with a pencil is not a criminal offense, but what if that gradebook was located in the teachers car, or home, or even in the school? The students could possibly have to break into any one of those locations. If they were caught, they would not be in court for changing grades, it would be for breaking and entering and possibly theft of personal property. Few people would be hard pressed to disagree with those offenses.

        I'm not here to argue what should be deemed a reasonable sentence for computer crimes, but the information/data they were acessing really is secondary when considering the actions required to obtain it.

        dude.
        • by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:18PM (#21245645) Homepage Journal

          Now ask yourself if getting paid $5 to steal Mrs. Smith's gradebook and change a grade is worth 20 years in jail. Does it become worth a longer sentence if you have to be smarter to accomplish the same task?

          As others have stated before me, its really not the act of changing the grades thats so bad. Its the methods employed in doing so.
          Yes, and the methods employed involved breaking into the school's computer. It's no different from picking the lock on the school teacher's desk drawer, and I can't see anyone getting out the pitchforks and torches over that either. Sure, it's a crime. Sure, you make an example of the kids because they tried to make money off of this. No, you do not trash their lives over the mistake.

          Crime + computer != worse crime
          • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:34PM (#21245821) Journal
            The reason I think it is worse is because, unlike stealing from the teachers desk, they will have to treat everything on the computers they hacked as suspect. If they do the smart thing and perform a full audit, you are talking hundreds or even thousands of man hours (depending on the amount of data on these machines) which could have been put to better use taking care of the users. There is also no telling how much the full audit will end up costing the school, and since costs are passed on to students, these two bozos could have raised the price of an education for everyone that goes there. I think the price of a full audit should be figured into the damages, just as you would figure vandalism in the commission of a crime in regards to the sentencing.
            • Ironically... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by DaedalusHKX (660194) on Monday November 05, 2007 @05:26PM (#21246491) Journal
              It is a PUBLIC USE COMPUTER... the entire faculty and staff has access to it via one format or another. This leaves lots of avenues of access so ALL DATA ON SUCH A SYSTEM IS SUSPECT!

              Especially in an educational facility, I've been on both ends of this argument the hacker and the hacked, so trust me on this or don't, but data on government and facility wide access machines, is NOT secure and is ALWAYS suspect.

              Of course, as far as I'm concerned, this is yet another reason NOT to worry about school, IMHO.

              I did most of my learning as an "extra curricular" activity. It paid off dividends, while schoolwork and college work have yet to pay me a penny. In fact, most of my non "vocational" education has cost me dozens of thousands of dollars and haven't paid me back even a fraction of the cost involved. So IMHO, hacking grades is pointless, because neither straight A's nor straight F's will get you a job, or get you well paid, or anything. At best, you can slave away for straight A's so you can end up a boring, lifeless, possibly low paid, and certainly easy to fire cubicle monkey for the jock who learned how to run a business, or the geek who never showed up for class on time and barely passed gym or shop when he was in school.

              Look around, history's brightest people, inventors, discoverers, all were either failures in school or not particularly shining examples of "classwork drones". Why? Simple, their attention was diverted to this thing called "life". And while you were trying to get ready to live your life one week of vacation per year of work at a time, they were living theirs... (and if they didn't get stupid with their investments, they probably continued to do so well past the time where you had a kid or three, a mortgage and car payment, none of which you couldn't afford... which in the end is the reason so many of us "geek" types end up broke... poor investments, of both time and money.)
      • by FLEB (312391) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:53PM (#21245327) Homepage Journal
        It's not so much fear as computers as covering all the bases, at least in the matter of having the law on the books. Okay, these folks were only using the computer cracking to change grades, but computer cracking can also be used for much more damaging ends. Given that intents and damages of those intents can span a wide range and be uncodifiably fuzzy, it make sense to have a law as given, that maxes out at a punishment fit for the more serious instances of that crime, but allows judicial discretion to allow for lesser offenses. Having a hundred degrees of "Computer cracking with intent to..." laws would just cause confusion, possible loopholes, and would likely still leave just as much judicial/prosecutorial discretion as far as which specific charge to select.

        There might be something to be said later, if the judge slaps down the max, but that's an issue to take up once facts are in. At the moment, the article is really nothing but FUD and fumes.
      • For a better analogy, picture, "Hey John, I'll give you $5 if you steal Mrs. Smith's gradebook, change my grade in it, and put it back." This sounds identical to the list of crimes you made, only committed with a pencil rather than a computer. The problem here is that old lawmakers are more afraid of computers (because they don't know how they work), and thus are making equivalent crimes more severe if they involve a computer instead of a pencil.

        I don't know that that is true. There are generally laws on th

    • Sentencing guidelines are a mistake, and that's the whole problem. What sentencing guidelines do is move the judiciary power into the federal power, and as a result, you have a race to ever more ridiculous sentences for political reasons. What we really need is to have judges doing the sentencing based on the facts of the case and the real severity of the crime, not a congress in a race to imprison people to seem tough on crime.

      Sure, one can say that there was identity theft involved, but, what -really- happened? If the students used a password cracker to try and break in, then technically, yes, there was an identity theft because they logged in as someone else. However, this sort of an attack doesn't really constitute an identity theft in the sense we would reasonably define it - which is, using someone's personal information to destroy their life. Like, they weren't breaking into accounts to steal visa numbers and go on a spending spree. Yet, they are going to be charged with the crime, and the government is using a technicality to smear them in the public.

      Such actions by the government will only undermine people's faith in it. As Princess Leia once said, "the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
      • by N3WBI3 (595976)
        Sentencing guidelines are a mistake, and that's the whole problem.

        Right because if a judge wants to give you 10 years for jaywalking you should have to go through the appeals process.

        What sentencing guidelines do is move the judiciary power into the federal power

        Depends on the law, if its a federal law should not the people who make the law create the sentencing guidelines... BTW federal laws are tried in federal courts by federal judges so *yes* judiciary power in such places is going to be federal.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          > Sentencing guidelines are a mistake, and that's the whole problem.
          >
          > Right because if a judge wants to give you 10 years for jaywalking
          > you should have to go through the appeals process.

          The problem with this, of course, is the fact that you can't point to
          as much as a single instance of this particular problem. Sentencing
          guidelines are typically established because someone whines that
          "criminals are getting off too easy". Their usual intent is to PREVENT
          judges from meting out reasonable and jus
      • by The Only Druid (587299) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:36PM (#21245109)
        This is nothing but shibboleth.

        Sentencing guidelines - which, by the way, are not mandatory - do nothing to erode the power of the judiciary. Defining the possible range of sentences for an offense is not distinct from defining the offense itself. The notion of a "crime" includes both the proscribed act and the related punishment. It is philosophically unsound to pretend that the idea of a judiciary includes sole control over sentencing, unless you're willing to embrace judges choosing to impose incredible sentences (e.g. death, for theft) when they believe it fair.

        All legislation is the Legislature imposing its will upon the Judiciary; without Congress telling the American Judiciary what is legal or illegal, the Judiciary would have nothing to do.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pendersempai (625351)
          "Sentencing guidelines - which, by the way, are not mandatory"

          Yes they are. They prescribe a range within which the court/jury has discretion (channeled through a list of legislatively-sanctioned factors), but they a mandatory range.

          "It is philosophically unsound to pretend that the idea of a judiciary includes sole control over sentencing, unless you're willing to embrace judges choosing to impose incredible sentences (e.g. death, for theft) when they believe it fair."

          Except that the judge is checked by a
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Phil_At_NHS (1008933)
        Are you mixing up Guidelines with Mandatory sentencing? I like the idea that a similar crime will get a similar time. This does not rule out vastly different punishment for crimes which are quite different, such as this case. Mandatory sentencing is objectionable, as it leaves judges with little leeway. In this case, these kids should be hit hard. 20 years, 250K is a little too hard, but some real punishment is due.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        Such actions by the government will only undermine people's faith in it. As Princess Leia once said, "the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

        Fear will keep them in line. Fear of communists, drug dealers, pedophiles and terrorists.

        Besides, Tarkin's response was to blow up Alderaan. US government has nuclear bombs. Draw your own conclusions.

      • Sentencing guidelines are a mistake, and that's the whole problem. What sentencing guidelines do is move the judiciary power into the federal power, and as a result, you have a race to ever more ridiculous sentences for political reasons.

        No, they don't. First, "sentencing guidelines" may or may not be adopted by a power outside of the judicial power, and where they are adopted by another power, its the legislative power, not the "federal" power distinct from the judicial power, which is an incoherent conce

      • Well, I give you points for using a Star Wars quote to illustrate part of your argument. And I agree that sentencing guidelines are a mistake in general.

        Some type harsh monetary fine, or at the very least barring from any type of academic study is appropriate, but the sentence was arrived at for the wrong reasons. We are not hard enough on academic fraud. "It's just a letter," one might say, or "Everybody does it," or "It's just to get into a good school, no harm done." Bullshit. One, for every liar who g

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:16PM (#21244769)
      Actually, if the 80's taught me nothing else it was that hacking grades was a slippery slope to international espionage. One day you're changing your grades, the next you're starting a global thermonuclear war and getting yelled at by Dabney Coleman.
      • by FauxPasIII (75900)
        Mmmmmmm.... Ally Sheedy.
      • by Akaihiryuu (786040) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:43PM (#21245205)
        I actually thought most of that movie was ridiculous when I saw it (especially graphics over a modem that would've been at max 50bps). However, the "grade hacking" is one of the most realistic "hacks" I have ever seen in a movie. For that part anyway, whoever made the movie did a little research. He didn't "hack" anything to change the grades, he used social engineering (getting sent to the principal's office, then creating a distraction so he could look at the password that was hidden in the office). At that point, he had the password, all he had to do is log in and change grades. That was ingenious, and it's sad that most "hacking" these days in movies is portrayed with fancy 3D graphics rather than how it's really done. There was the use of nmap in Matrix Reloaded, but social engineering will usually get people further than any hacking tools, even real ones like nmap.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tgd (2822)
          Nah, 300bps would've been plenty common back then over an acoustic coupler.

          Plus, if you go back and watch again, the graphics are all ASCII graphics and are printed out to the screen at a believable bitrate. They're only vector graphics once in NORAD.

          (And at the risk of aging myself, I had one during that similar era and it wasn't uncommon to see early BBS systems with ASCII graphics in the 81/82 timeframe -- and right around that time you did see systems like ReGIS showing up that would go graphics over sl
    • Sounds justifiable to me, simply on the basis of what they did. Surreptitiously altering records affects everyone, doing it knowingly for personal gain is an affront to everyone alive and everyone who will ever live. You can't trust someone who has demonstrated that they are of so corrupt and self serving a nature to walk among decent people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vux984 (928602)
        Sounds justifiable to me, simply on the basis of what they did. Surreptitiously altering records affects everyone, doing it knowingly for personal gain is an affront to everyone alive and everyone who will ever live. You can't trust someone who has demonstrated that they are of so corrupt and self serving a nature to walk among decent people.

        And what if they had done it by erasing the braniacs name of his test sheet and writing your own in its place?

        "Surreptitiously altering records"? check.
        "knowingly"? che
        • Yes, I would agree with your points that such white collar crimes are more severe and lasting in effect than robbing someone at gunpoint of a scant few material possessions.

          Yes, they harm me more personally because they damage my capacity to act intellectually with their lies than the armed robber does.

          Yes, I agree that it was an orchestrated scam and most definitely not an act of passion.

          Yes, I agree that it justifies a greater sentence.

          Oh, wait. You lost me at the end.
      • by ATMAvatar (648864)
        But isn't it perfect training to become future politicians and CEOs? They lied, cheated, and stole to get ahead.
      • by IdleTime (561841)
        Where I come from 20 years is ONE year shy of the maximum sentence you can get for 1st degree murder. Nobody has ever accused USA for having reasonable sentences, quite the opposite. And this is no exception, it's pure bullshit.
    • But you left out that they could cause a Global Thermonuclear War.
    • Shooting Apu is now just a small fine
    • I thought the penal system was supposed to help rehabilitate people too? If you take someone that's 28 years old and throw them in prison for 20 years. You're going to have a 48 year old person that has absolutely no chance of earning a decent wage.

      Look at Frank Abagnale Jr, for all the crimes he commited he spent less than 5 years in prison. He was then offered a deal to work with the government for free and then started his own firm based around catching fraud. He's worth more now than what he originally
      • Punishment in a criminal system may exist to rehabilitate, to extract vengeance, to directly deter (i.e. prevent that criminal from committing new offenses), or indirectly deter (i.e. to dissuade others from committing new offenses, out of fear of punishment).

        To my knowledge, no western nation has ever announced that one and one alone of these goals was now "the" objective of their penal system. Far from it, pragmatics (i.e. how much money is available, per prisoner) has almost always set this issue. W
    • by ByOhTek (1181381)
      The bigger point is the "could", TFA and TFS read as if he is getting the punishment, until the very end.

      Yes, it is possible, but would you rather a more convoluted set of laws? A caluse for each concievable use of breaking this law
      - data theft (private, confidential, classified, ..., each would need their own category)
      - data destruction (see theft for caveats, for deleting data)
      - data falsification (see theft for caveats, like destruction except data is made to look like it hasn't been modified)

      And then yo
    • Did he shoot someone, as the thief in your 7-11 story did? Did anyone die? Did anyone go to the hospital? No, the charges were all nonviolent; the very worst thing he did was take money to change someone else's grade.

      OTOH a couple of decades ago here in Springfield I had a friend named Danny, who drove a cab. He was taking a fare to the housing project and a gang banger walked up, put a gun to his chest, and demanded money. Danny had just started his shift and only had fifty cents on him (cabbies don't make
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:09PM (#21244649) Homepage Journal

    Here's the article at InforWorld. [infoworld.com]

    Where I once worked we had a couple of student workers change their own grades, one caught after she had been accepted at University of Michigan, for which she was undoubtably given a right boot in the arse from them after we notified them she had changed her grade. She may well have displaced the next student in line, who was now elsewhere or changed majors as a result of not being accepted. Certain schools only take so many into a programme each year.

    The consequences of changing grades can be dire. How about someone receiveing an engineering degree who doesn't really have the solid math background required, but had a friend who worked in the college records office.

    We also sacked a student who changed her grades so she could continue to receive financial aid. Hurts nobody, right? Wrong. How about the student who deserved it but all the money in the scholarship fund was given to others, including the one who falsified records.

    I, too, doubt the judge would make an example of them. It will probably be a fine and some community service, along with the stain on their records for being convicted of a crime, which would doubtfully make a positive impression upon prospective employers, unless Enron and Arthur Anderson were still in business.

    As to this article, Seems a bit of a "slow news day" post. Why not something about how Martial Law in Pakistan has resulted in severed internet connections and how people might be coping.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbulmash (688770) *
      And it may not even be the blog the original poster submitted. I submitted a story on MySpace getting false positives on sex-offender screening of their users [slashdot.org]. I linked to the blog where I'd found out about it when I submitted it (The Internet Patrol [theinternetpatrol.com]). When ScuttleMonkey posted the story to the front page, I still got credit for the submission, but some other blog [blorge.com] was linked.

      Now, the date on the other blog post was the day before my source, so it might have been that there were many submissions and my
      • I submitted a story on MySpace getting false positives on sex-offender screening of their users. I linked to the blog where I'd found out about it when I submitted it (The Internet Patrol). When ScuttleMonkey posted the story to the front page, I still got credit for the submission, but some other blog was linked. ... Or it might be that ScuttleMonkey changed the link for more nefarious reasons.

        Hmm. That certainly does smell fishy.

    • by Sciros (986030)
      The "slower" the news day, the better, my man. I think the ratio of bad news to good news that we find reported (even on Slashdot) is above 1, or at least not low enough. So, look on the bright side ^^

      Hmm as for the article... I don't know if anyone wants to argue with you about whether changing grades is bad because it hurts others. That much is a given since school/uni/scholarships are competitive. Most folks are just keen to discuss the [uncalled-for] severity of the maximum possible punishment, and perh
  • by iknownuttin (1099999) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:11PM (#21244675)
    Remember when hacking into the school's computer system to change grades was considered to be a prank that resulted in maybe at most a suspension. Now, it's literally a Federal Crime. What, in a few years, you'll get the death penalty for hacking grades?
    • by habig (12787) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:24PM (#21244901) Homepage
      Yes, times have changed - people used to use their SSN's in public all over the place. Now, we know that this is like handing out keys to your bank accounts. Privacy about personal information is suddenly a (rightfully) important topic.

      If TFA had been about someone at the school who let his laptop get stolen with all that sensitive information on it, slashdot would be full of people calling for his head. These guys break in, sell their access, and are suddenly martyrs because they got caught quickly, limiting the damage to changed grades? Bogus.

      Also, beware the hyperbole. The court's job is to make sure that the sentence fits the crime, the listed penalties are maximums.
    • For starters the stakes are a lot higher now. Look at the admission rate to the Ivies this year, its something on the order of 10% or so. The competition is cutthroat and only going to get worse. Furthermore, increases in tuition have far outstripped financial aid AND increases in salaries, so competition for aid and scholarships, which usually are based at least in part on grades, has become incredibly intense. Finally, a college education has almost become required in the US to enter the middle class.
      • by megaditto (982598)
        Well, it could still be considered a prank even today, if it's done right.

        For example, changing class grades to all F's could be a nice prank. Or creating 100 additional student records and enrolling those in a class (then have teacher looking for Hewood Jablowme, and Richard Hertz off the roster)...

        If they did something like that, I seriously doubt they would be even arrested.
    • Must...quote...Venture Bros.

      "There are no prisons in Ünderland, as the Baron has seen fit to impose the death penalty for all infractions of Ünderlaw"
    • by jcr (53032)
      When I was in high school, changing your grades, whether by computer or by forging paper records was nominally an expulsion offense.

      -jcr

    • by blhack (921171) *
      hopefully students these days start learning their lesson:

      Instead of performing obvious cries for attention like hacking into your schools DB and changing your grades, just start working for the Russian Mob botting computers and sending spam.

      DUH!
      When will kids learn?
  • Fairer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:12PM (#21244701)
    You are sentenced to school until such time as you earn the grade you created by hacking.
  • Just askin.
  • by ArchieBunker (132337) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:14PM (#21244741) Homepage
    The old laws simply need updated to reflect todays technology. Unfortunately the govt is too busy worrying about how many ounces of breast milk you can carry on plane to investigate this matter. At this point the accused party might as well have beat up some cops and then raped their wives to get 20 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:16PM (#21244775)

    Complaining about the maximum sentence shows lack of experience with matters of law. There are many, many laws in various countries that carry a substantial maximum penalty for a crime because the crime _can_ be severe but it can also be ridiculously petty.

    For example, most countries carry the crime "theft" on the books and if that country only has one statute for any sort of theft, the maximum penalty will look harsh if it would be applied to someone stealing a candy bar. However, one has to consider that the same statute also covers stealing millions from a bank in which case a sentence closer to the maximum could be justified.

    That's why we have HUMAN judges, with all their faults, instead of just a computer that checks if all the conditions for the crime is met and just prints a "default" sentence, because not every case is the same even if they are punishable under the same law.

  • Simple Solution (Score:2, Redundant)

    by acoustix (123925)
    Don't break the law.

    I didn't place a lot of importance on my grades throughout school, but it's been proven that a person's grades affects many aspects of life. Other than employment grades affect financial assistance, insurances rates, and even leniency in the legal system. While grades aren't really legally binding in a court of law for anything many judges and juries will take good grades into consideration because statistics show that they tend to be law-abiding citizens. In a round-about way if you'
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Rob the Bold (788862)

      Don't break the law.

      Simple and authoritarian, what's not to love?

    • by CortoMaltese (828267) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:30PM (#21244997)
      This reminds me of a joke with another simple solution:

      A student comes to a young professor's office. She glances down the hall, closes his door, kneels pleadingly.

      "I would do anything to pass this exam."

      She leans closer to him, flips back her hair, gazes meaningfully into his eyes. "I mean..." she whispers, "I would do... anything."

      He returns her gaze. "Anything?"

      "Anything."

      His voice softens. "Anything?"

      "Anything."

      His voice turns to a whisper. "Would you... study?"

  • In Argentina, you don't get 20 years even if you kill someone. (in theory you could get up to 25 years for commit a homicide, but it is very unlikely to get such a sentence).
    • by gbulmash (688770) *
      "(in theory you could get up to 25 years for commit a homicide, but it is very unlikely to get such a sentence)."

      And that's the point many posters are making. The 20 year sentence is just in theory. It's highly unlikely their punishment will be anywhere near that severe.

  • Standard MO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Steve Baker (3504) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:19PM (#21244819) Homepage
    It's the standard MO of DA's these days. Pile on charge after charge until someone is looking down the barrel of 50 years for jay-walking, until they're very willing to take the plea-bargan slap on the wrist. Essentially torturing someone until they admit guilt. This way the DA doesn't have to actually work to convict someone while padding their resume with lots of convictions. Who wants to risk going before a capricious and tough on crime public, or worse, a tough on crime judge, to plead their innocence when they're looking at that much time? After all, if you were innocent you wouldn't have been arrested, right?
    • Wow, generalize irrationally much?

      1. Show me any statistics on this alleged proclivity of prosecutors;
      2. Show me the definition of "torture" that includes a prosecutor saying "I have enough evidence to get past a grand jury for these counts against you.";
      3. Show me a D.A. who has a documented record of having done any of the above as a means of avoiding their actual work;
    • by _14k4 (5085)
      I don't normally feed the trolls, but why this was modded 4 is beyond me. Read the post above this one, that expounds on the logical issues surrounding this idea. If the falsified grades pushed someone *valid* out of financial aid... what does that say to the person who is now illegally getting financial aid? They are _stealing_ from the person who should have it.

      Personally, I say plot the estimated amount of financial aid someone is missing out on because of a fake grade; add in the amount of _salary_ s
    • by QCompson (675963)
      Spot on. There are so many laws these days, with ever-increasing penalties, that a little offense like jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk can rack up a potential jail-term of 20-30 years. Spitting on the sidewalk, conspiracy to spit on the sidewalk, public nuisance, spitting within 100 feet of a school, endangering minors in proximity of spit, etc. Nearly everyone takes a plea now because it's insane to risk it at trial.

      How many new criminal laws are passed each year, and how many others sunset or ar
    • When I was in grade school they had a program called "VIP". I can't remember what it was supposed to stand for (certainly not "very important person") ... but the program entailed a police officer coming to the classroom every week for a certain period of time to talk to the class about crime, drugs etc. I remember even at the time (I was 11 or 12 years old) thinking to myself how full of shit they were. But one of the things I remember the most clearly was the officer saying that they (the police) will alw
  • It seems... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koan (80826) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:19PM (#21244821)
    It seems that the punishment for computer crimes has become more harsh, almost as though hiring competent admins and securing the network is more work than changing a law...a law being passed by people that refer to the Inet as "tubes" that get clogged, and haven't the slightest idea of what the internet is all about.

    Troubling.
    • Note that the punishment for counterfeiting is also very severe, more so than many violent crimes. The legal system has always, since before computers were invented, taken an extremely dim view of people messing around with systems at the heart of the economy. The internet has reached the "at the heart of the economy" status very quickly, and there's been a corresponding increase in the severity with which computer crimes can be punished.

      I doubt many law makers have the slightest idea how a mint prints mone
  • by penguin_dance (536599) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:20PM (#21244829)

    They're 29 and 28 years old and STILL in college!

    Link to the full story [infoworld.com]

  • Is it just me that wonders why these two are punished, yet the teacher who's classroom computer was rootkited is charged?

    In one case we have a clear case of people hacking a school computer system with fraudulent intent. In the other, the victim was penalized.

    Is the US criminal justice system geared only to blame humans? If the culprit is a piece of software controlled by someone not in the jurisdiction of the court, are we always going to blame the victim?

    In this case, the bad guys got caught, but like peo
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:34PM (#21245069) Homepage
    is to clean sewers and public toilets for a year. And then tell them that it's about the only kind of job they should expect if they can't get their fingers out of places where they don't belong, and there are jobs that are worse than that...

    It's bad enough to take a peek, but many are curious so that's not unusual, but whenever data is modified without permission it's a really bad crime. Even as tempting it may be some things are best untouched. If information is incorrect there are better ways than to modify it yourself.

  • In an earlier time.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Kitsune818 (927302)
    20 years ago, the paper would have described them as geniuses and chalked it up to something like "Geeks will be geeks" and a slap on the wrist. Later, they'd have started a successful PC company, and it would become an interesting anecdote in their memoirs.
    • 12 years ago I was caught hacking in the educational facility I was (theoretically) studying at. I didn't change my grades, but I did have complete access to, if I'd thought about it (which I didn't). All I did do was fix a minor bug (an "oops, inc instead of dec" bug, nothing big) in a tutor's program. My main motivation was boredom - one should not be forced to take "Introductory Certificate in Computing" (this is a mouse - see how the arrow on the screen moves when you move it?) before being allowed t
  • First their using the password 'pencil' to change their biology degree from an F to an A, then next thing you know we are at DEFCON 1 and W.O.P.R. has the launch codes. Have we learned nothing people?
    • by ajlitt (19055)
      Don't you think we should be blaming the parents here? He asked for a car, he got a computer.
  • Playing Devil's advocate for a moment, though, the crime here is that they are stealing good grades instead of earning them, and the benefits of good grades are fairly far-reaching considering your college transcript follows you the rest of your life. Assuming that they got away with it, would it be fair to say that their criminal act could have potentially gotten them 20 years of success and $250,000 of salary over the long term?
  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday November 05, 2007 @03:53PM (#21245335)
    Quite frankly, it is enough to punish the most severe charge and not adding the others. Or to let people serve the penalties in paralell. 20 years for this is not reasonable at all. There is no relation to the damage done. For some reason the US system still does this "damned forever" punishmenst, and increasingly for for non-violent crimes dtat did not cause a lot of damage. From Europe is looks a bit like the prison industry is behind this, as they need as many long-term convicts as they can get. All in all my impression is that the US is the "free' country with the longest prison terms and the least effect of the penalties on the crime rate. Don't you people want to rehabilitate your criminals and change them into non-criminals? Does not look that way to me.
  • expelling them? I mean come on. the solution to this particular crime is very simple.

    Expel them and revoke all the credits they earned at the school in question.

    Their inability to get admitted to another school or get a job will be punishment enough.
     
  • study any subject matter well enough to pass a test.

    Just consider it detention....
  • "Does Hacking Grades Warrant 20 Years in Jail?"

    Were they studying to be doctors or some other profession where people's lives could be in danger? Would you want to go to a doctor that didn't really pass, but bought his degree instead?
  • by Tom (822) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:29PM (#21245759) Homepage Journal
    That's what you get when you let people write the laws whose understanding of math ends at adding and substracting.

    Obviously, a much better formula would be more appropriate, something as simple as a geometric series, but the lawyers wouldn't understand it (and, let's face it, neither would the general public).
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday November 05, 2007 @04:29PM (#21245765) Homepage Journal
    The US justice and social system needs some serious work. If you have 1 in 142 [about.com] US residents in jail you have a problem. This equates to just under 2 million inmates and this is only based on 2002 figures, so I'd hate to see the current status.

    This inmate population is enough to populate any of the 13 least populated states [census.gov] in the USA.

    I am not saying what these people did isn't wrong, but the crime sounds more like revenge that punishment. This kids will be in debt and slaves to the system by the time the get out. Any time they would have had to think about what they did will be marred by the excessiveness of the punishment. Maybe the American society is just looking to continue slavery, but using other means to do it?

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

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