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MIT Investigating School's Role In Swartz Suicide 382

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
The untimely death of Aaron Swartz has raised a lot of questions over the weekend. Now MIT is launching an internal investigation to determine what role the school played in his suicide. From the article: "In a statement, MIT President L. Rafael Reif offered his condolences, saying that the school's community was 'extremely saddened by the death of this promising young man who touched the lives of so many. Now is a time for everyone involved to reflect on their actions, and that includes all of us at MIT,' Reif said. 'I have asked professor Hal Abelson to lead a thorough analysis of MIT's involvement from the time that we first perceived unusual activity on our network in fall 2010 up to the present. I have asked that this analysis describe the options MIT had and the decisions MIT made, in order to understand and to learn from the actions MIT took. I will share the report with the MIT community when I receive it.'"
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MIT Investigating School's Role In Swartz Suicide

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  • Re:good (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:21AM (#42580899)

    Swartz was not one of their students. He broke in to MIT wearing a disguise, then broke into a locked networking cabinet.

  • Money? Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ifthir (1446587) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:32AM (#42580967)
    MITIMCo is a division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created to manage and oversee the investment of the Institute's endowment, retirement and operating funds. As of June 30, 2012, MITIMCo had more than $15 billion of total assets under management. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/institute-endowment-figures-0914.html [mit.edu]
  • by leftie (667677) on Monday January 14, 2013 @09:48AM (#42581049)

    "-Aaron did not “hack” the JSTOR website for all reasonable definitions of “hack”. Aaron wrote a handful of basic python scripts that first discovered the URLs of journal articles and then used curl to request them. Aaron did not use parameter tampering, break a CAPTCHA, or do anything more complicated than call a basic command line tool that downloads a file in the same manner as right-clicking and choosing “Save As” from your favorite browser.
    -Aaron did nothing to cover his tracks or hide his activity, as evidenced by his very verbose .bash_history, his uncleared browser history and lack of any encryption of the laptop he used to download these files. Changing one’s MAC address (which the government inaccurately identified as equivalent to a car’s VIN number) or putting a mailinator email address into a captured portal are not crimes. If they were, you could arrest half of the people who have ever used airport wifi.
    -The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.
    -I cannot speak as to the criminal implications of accessing an unlocked closet on an open campus, one which was also used to store personal effects by a homeless man. I would note that trespassing charges were dropped against Aaron and were not part of the Federal case.

    http://unhandled.com/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-aaron-swartzs-crime/ [unhandled.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @11:16AM (#42581775)

    "-The government provided no evidence that these downloads caused a negative effect on JSTOR or MIT, except due to silly overreactions such as turning off all of MIT’s JSTOR access due to downloads from a pretty easily identified user agent.

    The original MIT Tech coverage trivially refutes this. JSTOR's servers went down because of the volume of downloads. JSTOR responded first by blocking certain parts of the 18.x.x.x IP block, and then took down the entirety of the 18.x.x.x IP block when MIT could not stop the downloads, because they wanted to be able to serve other academic institutions. Stupid overreaction it was not.

    MIT IS&T is not full of chumps. They started by revoking Swartz's network access, so he purchased dedicated computers. They revoked network registration to the MAC addresses in questions, so Swartz started spoofing. Is it really worth the time of a few professional troubleshooters and a student volunteer maintenance team to continually hunt down MAC addresses?

    They start looking for a physical presence, Swartz leaves hidden computers in the SIPB room and a network closet. Sooner or later you have to concede that there is reasonable level of response before you call the authorities. For the record, while that network closet is occasionally unlocked it is also frequently locked; there's a somewhat well-known hacking location nearby (a shaft, I believe) and my own visits there sometimes had to involve picking said lock.

  • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:5, Informative)

    by FileNotFound (85933) on Monday January 14, 2013 @12:22PM (#42582367) Homepage Journal

    Unfortunately, a plea bargain would have required Swartz admitting that he did broke the law, and it looks like he was not the type of person who would do that.

    He tried to use a wifi connection to download the articles. He was kicked off wifi - over and over and over. So instead he broke into a network closet, and hid a hardwired laptop in to continue downloading the articles.

    The university installed a camera - which he was aware of and used a bicycle helmet to block his face from the camera.
    I am as unhappy with the outcome as anyone here - but come on - to even imply that he is not guilty of knowlingly trying to gain unauthorized access REPEATEDLY is insane.

  • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:4, Informative)

    by FileNotFound (85933) on Monday January 14, 2013 @01:01PM (#42582773) Homepage Journal

    Seriously?

    Please don't try to split hairs.

    It WAS unauthroized access - as he was certainly NOT authorized to download gigs from JSTOR. Furthermore - it was unathorized because JSTOR and MIT both kept trying to block him over and over and he kept circumventing their blocks. If you have to constantly change IPs and mac addresses and finally end up breaking and entering to get physical acceess - you don't get much more unauthroized than that.

    He entered the MIT wiring closet, and plugged in a laptop - where once again he was unauthorized to plug in. The time MIT and JSTOR both had to spend trying to kick him off their network was probably totaled hundreds of hours. I'd hate to have been their admin.

    He was commiting what he MUST have known was a criminal act. What did he expect?

  • Re:You Disgust Me (Score:4, Informative)

    by JobyOne (1578377) on Monday January 14, 2013 @06:24PM (#42586227) Homepage Journal

    ...I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a fine plus time served.

    Furthermore, he almost certainly could get a plea bargain-- believe it or not, prosecutors don't want to go to court if they can possibly get a conviction without doing so. Unfortunately, a plea bargain would have required Swartz admitting that he did broke the law, and it looks like he was not the type of person who would do that.

    Swartz tried to plea bargain two days before he killed himself. The prosecutor adamantly refused to accept less than a guilty plea to every single charge (even the patently absurd ones), and was also adamant that prison time would be required.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2262137/Aaron-Swartz-Reddit-founder-request-plea-deal-turned-Massachusetts-prosecutor.html [dailymail.co.uk]

    If you're just going to make stuff up, you should probably be quiet.

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