Kutztown students face felony charges for Apple iBook misuse

“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?

44 Comments

  1. I don’t think this really has anything at all to do with the iBooks, does it?

    And “computer skills” aren’t responsible for their getting past the “security.” This is a fundamental espionage practice CLEARLY demonstrated in “Wargames.” Any piece of paper with an otherwise nonsense word written on it, taped on or near a computer, is gonna be the administrator password.

    Wastin’ money, sure. But it’s not Apple’s money. I vote to remove this article from the site. Who’s with me?

  2. shit..i would have been in big trouble in high school. I found a file in an unprotected share that everyone had access to that included EVERY students name, school id(not SSN), address and phone number all in plain text. IT was a nice file to have! I told the administration and they said “you shouldn’t have looked there” and got all mad. But really..the file should not have been out in the open like that! Granted it was a crypic name (don’t remember it any more) but computer class is boring when they are teaching excel functions and you can program better then the “teacher”

  3. Great. Destroy a kid’s future for a bone headed mistake by administrator’s. Why don’t they just put a keg of Bud in each classroom and make every kid sign an acceptable non use of alcohol document.

    It’s hard enough to raise kids in this f@kced up world. In much of the US, 15% off the kids can’t and don’t complete high school because of the bulls@ti rules, tests, etc. High School is becoming a one srike and you’re out proposition. Great future for those kids that drop out. Kids screw up and always will until the end of time. That’s why they go to school…to learn. There is no such thing as zero tolerance when kids are concerned.

  4. This is utterly ridiculous. So the school wants to blame the students because the schools officials didn’t do their job in securing the network/iBooks? What a joke. They need to get off their asses and take responsibility for their own screw ups and get back to teaching these students instead of trying to ruin them by charging them with a frivilous felony offense.

  5. Um… don’t you have to be 18 years old to sign any contract for it to be legal? If the parents signed, then they could be sued with breach of contract, but I don’t think the kids can be.

    Of course, I’m not a lawyer, I just play one on the internet.

  6. What would the charge be if all this student data were found lying on the hallway floor? Or if a teacher left their grade book wide open on the desk while they gone for 15 minutes?

    Granted, the students were wrong. But the school staff that left the barn door open should bare responsibility, too. Felony? Get a grip.

  7. I’m agree with Red Ripe. These students obviously have allot of computer savvy. They should be asked to take part in the schools computer program. And in doing so, they can educate school administrators on how to properly administrate their computers.

  8. This is seriously ridiculous. I remember way back at my private school. We had an instance where a classmate of mine had installed a keylogger on a variety of computers and then obtained numerous faculty passwords, etc for log-ins, email, AOL accounts, etc. He ended up owning up to doing it out of guilt, not even because he was caught.

    His punishment (3 days or a week suspension – can’t remember, it’s been 7 years or so). Anyway, the point is that this at a place where you could be expelled for a single instance of academic dishonesty and even they weren’t rigid enough to see that such a penalty wouldn’t be warranted – Let alone, installing iChat like these poor kids.

    This response is so reactionary and hyper-inflated, the administrators need to get a clue.

    Oh yeh, what happened to the kid after his suspension. Last I checked he’s currently finishing up his master’s or Phd at MIT.

    Curiousity is not that abhorrent a crime…..

  9. “…and students began downloading such forbidden programs as the popular iChat instant-messaging tool.”

    Funny, I didn’t have to download my copy of iChat, as it’s <b>included as part of the operating system<b>!

    http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/ichat/

    My question is, how is the IT staff being punished? Are they being charged with felonies, too? They were surely complicit with their negligence in regards to ensuring the security of those iBooks… If they’re gonna tape the admin password on the back of the computer, why even bother with a password in the first place?

    And they say you don’t learn anything in the modern American classroom…

  10. These kids should ABSOLUTELY be charged. Think of it like this: Say you left the front door to your house unlocked (or opened). A person enters your home, but does not steal anything. You catch this person in your home and you call the police. That person is therefore arrested for breaking and entering, even though the door was already open.

    The person was somewhere they had no right to be, and should be punished. The students knew that what they were doing was wrong, and should therefore be punished. Simple as that.

  11. You know, everybody that always comments on these stupid stories comments with a knee-jerk reaction, usually emotional about how bad the punishment is being applied.

    Who cares if security was lax. Who care is it was “inevitible” that these students would do this… blah blah blah…

    The biggest failure from the adminsistration was not making it more clear that you could face “legal” punishment is you violate the agreement you sign to participate in the program. Why does everybody bitch-and-moan about the punishment? It was spelled out clearly from the beginning when both students and parents agreed!!!

    Bottom line, these school districts have to go through a lot of BS, locally, federally, etc. to secure funding to do these projects. Not to mention, many months of meetings and irate parents over the Mac vs. PC debate and I’m sure countless, sleepless nights with pressure.

    Bottom line, the students violated their agreements, failed a basic ethics class as well as morality test in the process, their parents never did enough to understand the terms themselves as well as educate their kids and stay on top of their kids’ behaviour.

    No one in present day America is seems like to take responsibility for their actions. This is disheartening. These kids shoud be punished to the amont that their legally signed agreements allow. When do we teach them this in not alright? When they’re running a large multi-national company that defrauds the public and it’s employees of millions or billions of dollars? Then everyone will have another gripe about how it’s someone elses fault, like the government.

    Teach this kids a lesson early in life. Time to “figuratively” give these kids a spaking and get on with it!

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