“They’re being called the Kutztown 13 — a group of high schoolers charged with felonies for bypassing security with school-issued laptops, downloading forbidden Internet goodies and using monitoring software to spy on district administrators,” The Associated Press reports. “The trouble began last fall after the district issued some 600 Apple iBook laptops to every student at the high school about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The computers were loaded with a filtering program that limited Internet access. They also had software that let administrators see what students were viewing on their screens.
“But those barriers proved easily surmountable: The administrative password that allowed students to reconfigure computers and obtain unrestricted Internet access was easy to obtain. A shortened version of the school’s street address, the password was taped to the backs of the computers,” AP reports. “The password got passed around, and students began downloading such forbidden programs as the popular iChat instant-messaging tool.”
“‘This does not surprise me at all,’ said Pradeep Khosla, dean of Carnegie Mellon University’s engineering department and director of the school’s cybersecurity program. IT staff at schools are often poorly trained, making it easy for students with even modest computer skills to get around security, he said,” AP reports. “Fifteen-year-old John Shrawder, one of the Kutztown 13, complained that the charges don’t fit the offense. He fears a felony conviction could hurt his college and job prospects. Shrawder’s uncle, James Shrawder, has set up a Web site that tells the students’ side of the story.”
“Students and parents were required to sign a code of conduct and acceptable use policy, which contained warnings of legal action,” AP reports. “The 13 students charged violated that policy, said Kutztown Police Chief Theodore Cole, insisting the school district had exhausted all options short of expulsion before seeking the charges. Cole said, however, that there is no evidence the students attacked or disabled the school’s computer network, altered grades or did anything else that could be deemed malicious.”
Full article here.
Shrawder’s website: http://www.cutusabreak.org/
MacDailyNews Take: Felony charges? Ridiculous. How about taking the iBooks away or at least taking them and setting up a secure admin password (and not taping it to the back of the screens) before giving them back to the students?