Student Arrested for Blocking the Ability of Teachers to Input Grade

Beighey.1In Clifton Park, New York, Shenedehowa High School student Matthew C. Beighey came up with the next best thing to getting good grades — keeping teachers from entering bad grades, or any grades at all. Beighey figured out a way to block teachers by inputting incorrect passwords three times for each of them in the system — locking them out temporarily from entering grades.

Beighey, 16, has been charged with two misdemeanors: unauthorized use of a computer and third-degree identity theft.

Beighey was previously charged with felony identify theft as a minor when he used another student’s identity to access the district’s computer system when he was 15. It may be time to take away little Matthew’s computer.

It appears that high school students are learning computer science a bit too well at high school where we are seeing an increasing number of cases of trespass and mischief, here. I do not see why most of these cases have to be handled in the criminal system, however.

For the full story, click here.

9 thoughts on “Student Arrested for Blocking the Ability of Teachers to Input Grade”

  1. noxi:

    “Last fall, the 16-year-old sophomore was accused of posting personal information on 250 district employees on his personal Web site. And now police say he built an application to shut teachers out of the grading system.

    The student built a computer application using teachers’ names that entered false passwords three times, she said, making it impossible for teachers to get into the system. They would then have to call the technical support staff to unfreeze their access.

    From the article:

    “Last fall, the 16-year-old sophomore was accused of posting personal information on 250 district employees on his personal Web site. And now police say he built an application to shut teachers out of the grading system.

    The student built a computer application using teachers’ names that entered false passwords three times, she said, making it impossible for teachers to get into the system. They would then have to call the technical support staff to unfreeze their access.

    We began seeing, at 12 o’clock at night, we’d have a group of teachers locked out,” DeFeciani said. “He actually went through and created a user ID and started throwing in random passwords. Teachers weren’t able to get in and enter their grades.

    Teachers were able to change their passwords and will file year-end grades on time.

    The student has been disciplined, although DeFeciani declined to say how or whether he was still able to attend classes. She did not disclose his identity but said he was the same student who had accessed personnel records in October.

    The files contained Social Security numbers, drivers’ licenses numbers, home addresses and other data on past and present transportation employees, many of them bus drivers.”

    *************

    While I would not suppose to opine in your area of expertise, I would think you would not opine in mine. Having represented scores of juveniles as both defense counsel and guardian ad litem, I can tell you this was no innocent child’s play as evidenced by the cited text of the article. This is the sign of a more pervasive problem. You may wan to take comfort in the fact that for every crime charged most juvenile offenders have committed seven others that were not charged. Using this formula and applying it to the 250 persons whose private information was disclosed, maybe you can calculate my concern.

  2. @mespo727272,
    I am very tolerant, but I think you might be misunderstanding where I am coming from in this case. I am a computer programmer, so I know a bit about computers. I know for instance that it is quite simple to lock out someone’s account by putting in the wrong password at the login screen (I’m assuming here it was just a simple plain Windows login screen). If you put in the wrong password 3 times, the account will get locked.

    I’m not sure why you would compare this to a virus, which is a program that causes some malicious effect. A 2 year old playing with mom & dad’s computer can do what this kid did by accident. He didn’t install any viruses or even gain access to the computers at all. Based on this kid’s actions as described in this article, there is no need for any advanced computer skills. Anybody could do what this kid did. I was not exaggeration when I mentioned that a chimp could do it. A cat could do it by walking around on the keyboard enough times.

    As for his previous charge I’m assuming he figured out the other person’s password or the other person just forgot to log out. Again there is absolutely no information that indicates that this kid has any more hacking skills than the average grandma.

    I think you confuse the fact that I think the punishment doesn’t fit the crime (mainly because people who don’t know anything about computers have the impression that he is a hacker genius or something) with me having a naive impression of human nature. I don’t. However in this case I think that people who are punishing this kid way more than he should be are the bad guys. My impression is that humans love to punish other people and overreact to irrational fears. So in summary it is the lynch mob who went after this kid who display flaws among the worst in human nature.

  3. Mespo727272:

    I switched some grades in high school while working in the office. the laws I have broken as an adult are running a couple of red lights and speeding a few times, less than 6 over 30 years of driving. I think your punishment is too harsh for the crime.
    Noxi is right.

    And also human nature is actually pretty good.

    The kid that ought to do time is the one that killed the cats, a serial killer in the making that one. I think Jeffery Dahlmer started out that way.

  4. noxidereus:

    “Anyone who thinks he should be punished by our criminal justice system for basically causing an insignificant minor inconvenience either doesn’t really know what the kid did, doesn’t understand computers, or just enjoys seeing people punished. This was way blown way out of proportion. Poor kid.”

    ****************************

    You seem very tolerant. I will keep your words in mind the next time a virus hacks your PC causing you to lose confidential or vital information. I suppose these virus builders all started out as criminal masterminds without any progression from the simple to the complex. That this kid already has a computer offense attached to his name provides only slight pause to your blithe view of the human nature. By the way, your “simple” confidence in human nature certainly is admirable. Were that it was true.

  5. mespo,

    While I agree in spirit with what you are saying, noxidereus is correct from the technical end. This isn’t the crime of a sophisticated hacker. The trick he pulled, while perhaps clever by human standards, makes someone with mad skillz yell out “n00b!” and spit take Mountain Dew and/or coffee all over their monitors. A little cage rattling reality check for the boy? Get the D.A. to snarl at him a bit? Sure. All for it. But an actual sentence involving incarceration? No. I Have to go with a slap on the wrist and a “Don’t do it again or it’s juvie for you, punk.”

  6. Hmm I don’t think this is a big deal at all. It sounds like something I would have done in high school (not that it is the right thing to do). I wouldn’t call this hacking and I think charges of identity theft are ridiculous.

    All he did was try to log in 3 times with the incorrect password. It doesn’t take any knowledge of computer science to do this. It’s not like he is some genius computer hacker. In fact a chimpanzee could pull it off by randomly hitting keys with his banana-free hand.

    His previous identity theft charge makes more sense though, although it doesn’t take computer skills to learn someone else’s password or use a computer that someone else forgot to log out of.

    This should have been handled by the school and his parents. Anyone who thinks he should be punished by our criminal justice system for basically causing an insignificant minor inconvenience either doesn’t really know what the kid did, doesn’t understand computers, or just enjoys seeing people punished. This was way blown way out of proportion. Poor kid.

  7. I have no problem with getting this kid’s attention within the context of the juvenile justice system. Had he franchised this little stunt into, say, the local hospital’s files, we’d have much less sympathy I suspect. Young Matt needs a primer on responsibility to go along with that computer acumen.

  8. I think its time the government looks at this kid and utilizes his best abilities. TRW got tired of being hijacked and eventually employed the 14 year old at about 100k per year in about 1990. They wanted to know how he kept breaking into and utilized his services on other defense related contracts.

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