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Does Hacking Grades Warrant 20 Years in Jail?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the pushment-fitting-the-crime dept.

Education 455

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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455 comments

Confusing The Issue (5, Insightful)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244627)

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:Confusing The Issue (2, Insightful)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244715)

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.

Re:Confusing The Issue (4, Interesting)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245019)

"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?

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

AvitarX (172628) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245079)

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).

Re:Confusing The Issue (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

agrippa_cash (590103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245065)

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 these same acts, but doing more harm, may deserve more than 20 years.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245083)

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."
No, it's more like "Hey, John - I'll give you $500 if you steal every grade book in the school , change my grades, forge the teacher's initials on the changes, and put it back."

For the most part grades are not written in pencil so a change would be more obvious and require the teacher to initial the change. Or in the case of file systems the teacher needs to login using his/her credentials to make a change.

Re:Confusing The Issue (4, Insightful)

i7dude (473077) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Confusing The Issue (4, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245327)

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.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245359)

Typo: It's not so much fear of computers...

The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244755)

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."

Re:The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (1)

N3WBI3 (595976) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245045)

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.

you have a race to ever more ridiculous sentences for political reasons

Oh yea politics never happens at the local level..

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.

So the law makers are not the ones who define the penalty for a law? that seems rather silly and would let the law makers pass the buck to oft unelected judges rather than be accountable to being too hard/easy on certain crimes..

Such actions by the government will only undermine people's faith in it.

Actually having folks who are elected make the laws and sentencing guidelines *BTW the judge can always suspend a sentence and give probation* is rather comforting...

Re:The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (1)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245055)

FTA "The charges in the indictment are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

Sure, one can say that there was identity theft involved, but, what -really- happened?

That's what the court case will do. They can't release anything else because I'm sure the accused aren't going to tell the "real" store if they *are* guilty...
Sentencing guidelines are just that... guidelines. TFA doesn't mention what the minimums are either, so it's possible they could get off easy

have judges doing the sentencing based on the facts of the case and the real severity of the crime

That's pretty much the job of the judge at the sentencing hearing...
The sentencing guidelines are the involvement of the legislative branch creating the laws and guidelines that the judiciary branch is supposed to enforce. Do you want the judges to have unilateral power?

Ummm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245077)

The legislative branch makes the law, which includes the punishment for breaking that law.

But I guess if your knowledge of government is define by Star Wars, then no wonder you are confused.

Re:The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (3, Insightful)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (2, Insightful)

Phil_At_NHS (1008933) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245199)

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.

Re:The Rub is the Sentencing Guidelines... (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245287)

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.

who modded this up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245339)

hey genius, the judiciary makes up part of the federal government. what the hell are you talking about? sure, there are also judiciary branches on the lower forms of government but what it clear to me is that you have little or no respectable concept about the structures of the system laws or our courts. you're a mere 2/3s of the way to having no understanding of the government at all.

Re:Confusing The Issue (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

FauxPasIII (75900) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244871)

Mmmmmmm.... Ally Sheedy.

Re:Confusing The Issue (4, Insightful)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Confusing The Issue (1)

Spudtrooper (1073512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245273)

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.

Hey, leave Weird Science out of this.

Re:Confusing The Issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245279)

Funny, because I actually did change my grades to graduate from high school in 1981. I wrote a program that simulated the shell and intercepted break commands. Everything the person using the terminal did was passed through to the real system, and the output was passed back to the user. Any login acitivty was sent to a log file for me to view later. All I had to do was leave it running on a terminal that the teachers often used. Then go in and change my F's to D's (to avoid looking too suspicious). I figured that little project was my final, and I got an A+.

Now the other little hack of exploiting a bug in HP-BASIC to read the contents of the mainframe's terminal buffer and capturing login info from *everyone* on the system (including the sysadmin) was a different matter. But never got caught for those evil deads.

There, I feel much better after my confusion.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244797)

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:Confusing The Issue (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245161)

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"? check.
"for personal gain"? check.

$250,000 fine and 20 years in the can?
An affront to everyone alive and everyone who will ever live?

Bearing in mind that beating somebody robbing you at gun point would net a far smaller sentence?

Hmmmm. No I don't see it.

A petty scam, and intellectual dishonesty. Maybe a small fine and suspension/expulsion from the school, and restoring the grades of course.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245319)

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.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

ATMAvatar (648864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245179)

But isn't it perfect training to become future politicians and CEOs? They lied, cheated, and stole to get ahead.

That's easy for you to say... (2, Funny)

nunyadambinness (1181813) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244839)

But you left out that they could cause a Global Thermonuclear War.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

zbend (827907) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244915)

I see your point but isn't the end result of stealing a Slurpee, and shooting someone . . One stolen Slurpee, and one potentially dead person? Where as the end result here is some changed grades, and lots of accessed information.

I've seen the movie... (1)

MidVicious (1045984) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244971)

One minute they're hacking grades...

...the next minute their spoofing our nuclear defense system called WOPR using an AI by the name of Joshua.

And you know what happens after that?

Defcon 1... unscrambled launch codes... and brightly lit games of Tic-Tac-Toe that flash mysteriously across your face is it plays!

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245013)

I just find it strange that they wouldn't spend a minute longer in jail if they'd held a gun to someone's head.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245147)

You may find it strange, yet I don't hear you complaining that multiple drug-offenses might result in the same sentence, despite a similar lack of violence.

Just because all criminal justice is meted out with only a few currencies of punishment - fines, imprisonment, community service, public shaming - does not mean that offenses with identical sentences are somehow equal. It simply means they have the same "price" for the perpetrator.

Consider a $50 video game, and $50 worth of food. No one would say that the food is the same as the video game, or that it is "strange" to charge as much for a single video game as you would charge for two meals. This is because while the two have the same price to the consumer, they are never suggested to be equivalent.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245123)

Shooting Apu is now just a small fine

Catch me if you can (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245143)

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 stole.

I'm not saying slap them on the wrists, but give them a reasonable sentence and help rehabilitate them. You may end up with the next Frank working on your IT department security audit. Instead I, as a tax payer, get to pay for 20 years of these guys in prison for changing a few grades. No body died, no one was physically harmed while we have rapists and murderers receiving similar sentences. Where is the logic in that?

Re:Catch me if you can (1)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245313)

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. When you have a lot of money, you look to rehabilitate and directly deter. When you have almost no money, you look to extract vengeance and deter indirectly and directly. Along the spectrum in between, we see a continuum of functionality in punishment.

If we were primarily concerned with rehabilitation, we would never imprison a non-violent offender with one who was violent; we would never confine prisoners of one level of offense (e.g. petty theft) with their superiors in the field (e.g. grand theft); etc. Rehabilitation is the hardest and most expensive of punishments, because it demands a comprehensive program of reeducation, training and all the analysis that goes along. In today's world, few nations (western or otherwise) have the resources to do much more than deterrence.

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245239)

Nowadays with such tools available to the common man, it is no surprise that the method of accomplishment would be considered to carry more gravity that the act itself. Think criminal empowerment i.e. he/she used (leveraged) the infrastructure against itself and/or the powers that be.

Who is the usual juror that will decide the case? More likely than not, said person will be someone who will be scared into convicting by the prosecution and the media. Said person will be made to think and/or believe that not convicting the defendant would put all for which they have worked so hard in jeopardy. Remember how so many prosecutors were playing the Osama card [www.cbc.ca] since 9-11-01?

Re:Confusing The Issue (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245365)

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 you have the effect circumstances:
- Money (would probably need dollar-amount classifications)
- Corporate logistics (this could have so many categories it isn't funny)
- Government logistics (this could have so many categories it isn't funny)
- Military logistic (this could have so many categories it isn't funny)
- Academic (they probably wouldn't even think of this one, it is so far down the chain)
- ...

No, the law is fine, the authors fear-mongering and absolute mistrust of authority (a little, and maybe even a lot these days is good, but not absolute) is the problem.

Stupid link to another blog (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244649)

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:Stupid link to another blog (2, Interesting)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244887)

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 summary of the story was judged the best, but ScuttleMonkey judged the other blog the best/earliest example of the story, thus changing my TFA link. Or it might be that ScuttleMonkey changed the link for more nefarious reasons.

Link Scandal @ Slashdot? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244979)

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.

Re:Stupid link to another blog (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245001)

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 perhaps the politics behind that punishment in the first place. I don't know, though. I got 2 hours of sleep today so I'm mostly interested in the 'Funny' posts myself.

Re:Stupid link to another blog (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245145)

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 perhaps the politics behind that punishment in the first place. I don't know, though. I got 2 hours of sleep today so I'm mostly interested in the 'Funny' posts myself.

Alas, that someone would actually have to pay to get an argument, when all they had to do was get their ideas posted on Slashdot, or at least attract people to their journal entries. (Please have a look at mine if you get a chance ;-)

I, too, suffer from sleep deprivation from a wild, undisciplined Saturday night of astronomical observation. With my Meade LXD-75 10 inch SNT and a Pentax XL 5.2mm ep I was able to discern the brightest 6 stars in Trapezium. I had to obtain verification, lest the astronomy police throw on of Sir Patrick Moore's books at me for fraud and deception.

Times have changed. (4, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:Times have changed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244713)

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.
Yes. We get this sort of crap a lot on slashdot - it's theoretically possible that someone might get the maximum sentence, but in practice it's absolutely ludicrous, to the point of not being worthy of talking about.

Re:Times have changed. (5, Insightful)

habig (12787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244901)

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.

Re:Times have changed. (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245049)

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. So vast quantities of money for someone(maybe not even the parties directly involved) are on the line. I think it warrants serious punishment. Maybe not 20 years in prison, but it's much more than a "prank" nowadays.

Re:Times have changed. (1)

Nintendork (411169) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245121)

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"

Re:Times have changed. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245241)

When I was in high school, changing your grades, whether by computer or by forging paper records was nominally an expulsion offense.

-jcr

No. (0)

treeves (963993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244689)

Does it really warrant a lengthy argument?
Insane.

Re:No. (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244989)

Yes it does. Why do people feel they have to cheat in school? It is so wrong that it almost should carry punishments on this scale.

Fairer (5, Interesting)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244701)

You are sentenced to school until such time as you earn the grade you created by hacking.

Re:Fairer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245047)

Careful now, not only could this become a life sentence, but it could constitute cruel and unusual punishment...

I'm going to go with... (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244721)

No.
As you were.

What's "pushment"? (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244731)

Just askin.

Re:What's "pushment"? (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244787)

Just askin.

It's what you get for trying to cheat at blackjack.

Old laws and new crimes (4, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244741)

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.

Re:Old laws and new crimes (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244857)

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.

Take me to Havana or I'll give you the worst manicure, ever!

Seriously, this is same old crime, which fits into the "spirit of the laws" meant to deter such behaviour. "Wirefraud" probably originated with someone sending a bogus missive over telegraph, but in spirit, you're doing the same thing with a fraudulent missive sent via your wi-fi connection.

Screwed up. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244763)

If you think that 20 years is a harsh sentence for illegally changing grades, just think of the kid who had sex with his girlfriend and got 10 years.

In the mean time, some asshole who shoots a kid to death because the kid knocked on the wrong door walks around free, and is even considered an unsung hero by some.

Like it says, the maximum penalty is unlikely (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#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 (1, Redundant)

acoustix (123925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244785)

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 falsifying grades then you're stealing financial assistance, cheating insurance companies, etc.

Nick

Re:Simple Solution (2, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244869)

Don't break the law.

Simple and authoritarian, what's not to love?

Re:Simple Solution (0, Troll)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244937)

So you propose lawlessness?

Gotcha. Oh wait, you wants laws, but just the ones you agree with. Who the hell hired you to be mr. law smarty pants?

Re:Simple Solution (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245023)

So you propose lawlessness?

Gotcha. Oh wait, you wants laws, but just the ones you agree with. Who the hell hired you to be mr. law smarty pants?

Wow. It's like you looked deep into my soul, man . . . how do you do it? I give up. Just gonna go smoke a pill, now. Maybe that'll erase the pain . . .

Re:Simple Solution (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245133)

well if "don't break the law" is harshing your buzz, maybe you have another idea? Like "don't follow the law" or "don't follow certain laws?"

Tom

Re:Simple Solution (2, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245399)

Well we better get rid of that whole supreme court "striking down of unconstitutional laws" thing, now shouldn't we?

After all, since all laws are proper and right and they never can be struck down or challenged in court (which usually requires someone to break them first) why bother even having that system?

Re:Simple Solution (5, Funny)

CortoMaltese (828267) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?"

Just to compare. (1)

stm2 (141831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244817)

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).

Re:Just to compare. (1)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245155)

"(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.

Re:Just to compare. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245351)

You'll never lead the world in incarcerations with that attitude.

USA! USA! USA!

Standard MO (5, Insightful)

Steve Baker (3504) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244819)

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?

Re:Standard MO (1)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245213)

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;

Re:Standard MO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245277)

The Duke Lacrosse guy comes to mind...

Re:Standard MO (1)

The Only Druid (587299) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245347)

The plural, as Slashdotters often note, of "anecdote" is not "data". Yet still, let's consider Nifong (the prosecutor of the Duke lacrosse players). He did none - I mean zero - of the alleged offenses. He investigated thoroughly, and only charged the boys with a few offenses (specifically nothing more than what the lying alleged-victim claimed). His mistakes - and they were horrible and grievous, and deserving of disbarment) were in HIDING evidence he discovered of their innocence, based on his political goals.

There are many flavors of incompetence and criminality, and it would be wise to keep them distinct.

Re:Standard MO (1)

_14k4 (5085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245345)

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_ someone in the major chosen by the faker, times 40 years of employment... and then, add in the amount of money spent in court, college employee salary, and such... make that the person's fine, along with a jail sentence as if they stole that much cash from a till somewhere, and then ask a jury what they think of the requested sentence.

It seems... (3, Insightful)

koan (80826) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:It seems... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245159)

So what is the internet all about?

I would think that much of the reason that punishments for computer crimes are getting more severe is that the consequences of those crimes are getting larger.

They've got bigger problems than this... (4, Funny)

penguin_dance (536599) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244829)

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

Link to the full story [infoworld.com]

Re:They've got bigger problems than this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244899)

Grad School? PhD?

thank god... (1)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244859)

...it was the pre 9/11 days when Matthew Broderick was showing off to Ally Sheedy otherwise Ferris Bueller would have been in the big house for changing their grades, well, not to mention for that little game of thermo-nuclear warfare.

Re:thank god... (1)

tecmec (870283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244991)

You are confusing two great movies. Easy to do, I know. But still...

Re:thank god... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245219)

I'm going to go off on a tangential rant here... Sorry to hijack your thread and all, but I've had an annoying day and this is the final straw. Sorry.

...it was the pre 9/11 days...

I really don't understand what this means. Terrorism existed all around the world before 9/11. The US itself had suffered terrorist attacks previous to 9/11. The oceans did not protect us before 9/11. There were people out there who wanted to hurt us before 9/11. There were school shootings, criminals, terrorists, enemies of the state...plenty of reasons for the government to want to wiretap and snoop before 9/11.

9/11 was a horrible tragedy, but the world did not change - only America did.

I get so tired of hearing "post 9/11" as an explanation to every kind of stupidity.

Kid suspended for weeks because he drew a picture of a gun? Post 9/11 world.
Guy fired for talking about going to the shooting range after work? Post 9/11 world.
Police freaking out about magnetic light-brites? Post 9/11 world.
Warrantless wiretapping? Post 9/11 world.
Bottled water on a plane? Post 9/11 world.
Guy arrested for paying with $2 bills? Post 9/11 world.

Fraud isn't a crime? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244861)

1. You forge checks to buy $100,000 of stuff.
2. You forge documents to indicate you completed $100,000 of schooling.

Those differ how exactly?

They should just hack the sentence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244873)

Hack the planet, while they're at it.

Re:They should just hack the sentence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244987)

And the Gibson, just to make sure.

thinly related to education and computer crimes (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21244951)

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 people caught for possession of minor amounts of marijuana, the punishment is more harsh than violent crimes.

Yet one more sign that the criminal justice system in the US is totally unbalanced, and needs to be reviewed and reconstructed in view of how the information age has changed the faces of business and commerce. Perhaps we will, in a majority, make the right choices in a year's time.

Re:thinly related to education and computer crimes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245167)

"people caught for possession of minor amounts of marijuana, the punishment is more harsh than violent crimes."

Link? Then STFU noob

If you have to ask... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21244983)

So hacking into a computer to change a grade is some how less of a crime than hacking to a computer to say steal user data or "just because"? It's a frigging crime! They broke the law. Do you not get that? Let's play "whatif"...

1. Guy robs store to get money to pay the rent.
B. Guy robs store to get money to buy drugs.

What's the difference between the two?

Nothing! Nada! The store was still robbed in either situation. Doesn't matter why it was robbed. The law was broken either way.

This is one of those "if you have to ask you'll never understand" scenarios. Return to sender.

Re:If you have to ask... (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245125)

Did you ever read "Les Miserables"?
Just asking.

What the real punishment for that would be (2, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245069)

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.

Even better punishment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21245397)

...would be to sentence them go thru Army boot camp and serve four years as a buck private with no promotion.

In an earlier time.. (2, Interesting)

Kitsune818 (927302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245107)

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.

Of course it needed... (1)

digitalamish (449285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245141)

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?

Punishment fit the crime? (1)

PontifexMaximus (181529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245175)

Why is it that some dude kidnaps a kid and gets virtually nothing, and these two punks (yes, they are punks) could get 20 years? I emphasize could, but still. We have such a skewed sense of justice in this country, it's really insane.

But... (1)

MortenMW (968289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245195)

it does warrant an A+ in CS.

What are good grades worth, though? (1)

TobyRush (957946) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245201)

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?

what should happen (1)

bulldog060 (992160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245237)

1) When the jackass that couldn't secure the system gets fired, the kid is given the first chance to take that job
and/or
2) The kid should be given a scholarship to the school of his/her choice as long as they are going for a C.S. ( or related ) degree

what happens to the future sys admins, programmers, and IT security people when everything becomes punishable by fines and jail time?

if i was responsible for a schools network i would throw a challenge down to the students to attempt to hack it when ever they get a chance ... it would make me a better admin, and it would make them learn skills that can be used later on.

next step: we arrest anyone that likes shop class or chemistry ... they could be supporting the terrorists in the future.

Re:what should happen (3, Insightful)

mu51c10rd (187182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245301)

next step: we arrest anyone that likes shop class or chemistry ... they could be supporting the terrorists in the future.

Already a step [slashdot.org] ahead of you...

Copying Grades (0, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245323)

No, these punks didn't just change their grades. Anyone can see that their new grades were identical to the grades of other students who created their own grades legitimately by their own work. These punks copied those other students' grades. So, like copying those students' CDs, these punks stole their grades, from other students. Those stolen grades are worth a great deal in the marketplace, entire careers of incomes from the victims.

20 years is too good for these thieves. They should have to spend their sentences listening to each week's Top 50 pop songs, endlessly repeated on commercial radio stations.

Adding the charges is unreasonable... (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

what ever happend to just .. (1)

gonar (78767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21245355)

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.
 
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