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Student Faces 38 Years In Prison For Hacking Grades 645

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the wrath-of-kahn dept.
the brown guy writes "An 18-year-old high school student named Omar Kahn is charged with 69 felonies for hacking into a school computer and modifying his grades, among other things. He changed his C, D and F grades to As, and changed 12 other students grades as well. By installing a remote access program on the school's server, Kahn was able to also change his AP scores and distribute test answer keys, and could be looking at a lengthy prison term. Not surprisingly, his parents (who have only recently immigrated to America) have decided not to post the $50,000 bail and Kahn is in jail awaiting trial."
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Student Faces 38 Years In Prison For Hacking Grades

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:02AM (#23884481)

    He got caught - unlike me, because I didn't brag about it on a public web site...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:44AM (#23885577)

      Reminds me of a business school student who was caught hacking his way to president of the business school student body. He didn't verbally brag, but he arrogantly gave himself a landslide win - more votes than there were students. He didn't get prison but he didn't get his tuition back after being expelled.

    • by mark-t (151149) <`markt' `at' `lynx.bc.ca'> on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:00PM (#23885749) Journal

      He didn't get caught because he bragged. Evidently, he was caught after he requested an official school transcript for a university he was applying for.

      Of course, if you read the article, you'd know that.

      But hey, who reads articles? This is slashdot.

    • by Ken Murray (1311885) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @05:01PM (#23888571)
      Read about this in The Times newspaper in the UK. The female journalist questioned why society wasn't recognising this straight "F grades" kid as a "boy genius". How I laughed :-)
  • A for effort? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theascended (1228810) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:02AM (#23884483)
    Even being a security researcher I might find some of those tasks non-trivial. In highschool I'm pretty sure that kind of action was out of my league. He has certainly learned something.
    • Re:A for effort? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:04AM (#23884503) Journal

      Including breaking and entering, stealing, and how to receive stolen property.

    • Re:A for effort? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by internetcommie (945194) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:12AM (#23884555)
      If he had put that much effort into studying and learned what he was supposed to, maybe he wouldn't have had to alter any records to get A's?
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:03AM (#23884491) Journal

    Here is the list of charges against Khan

    34 felony counts of altering public record
    11 felony counts of stealing and secreting public records
    7 felony counts of illegal computer access and fraud
    6 felony counts of burglary
    4 felony counts of identity theft
    3 felony counts of altering book of records
    2 felony counts of receiving stolen property
    1 felony count of conspiracy
    1 felony count of attempting altering of a public record

  • Cumulative... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Beetle B. (516615) <beetle_b@[ ]il.com ['ema' in gap]> on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:04AM (#23884497)

    Summary is unnecessarily sensational.

    I'm willing to bet the 38 years is if he gets convicted for all the charges, and doesn't get any concurrent sentencing - very unlikely.

  • It's amazing how they can turn a talented, although with obvious problems kid, into an outwright criminal. He is 18, for God's sake!!
    • by Bandman (86149) <bandmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:09AM (#23884537) Homepage

      Well, I'm not going to argue that he's obviously talented, but that's the sort of talent that gets you thrown into jail when misapplied

      • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:56AM (#23885087) Journal
        penitentiary... root word: penitence. make an example of him

        people seem to think that only crime with violence should be punished. punish them all. whether they physically break into your house or virtually, it is still a crime, even if no-one was hurt. That is why you can shoot someone when they break into your home in America. A law I really love and wish would be adopted in Canada. Too bad they can't find something similar when you catch someone hacking into your system.
      • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:22AM (#23885337) Homepage

        Well, I'm not going to argue that he's obviously talented, but that's the sort of talent that gets you thrown into jail when misapplied
        Wake up! Jail time for changing grades, man. Snap out of it.

        Jail time is not the solution for everything.

    • by The Snowman (116231) * on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:18AM (#23884613) Homepage

      If he is guilty of those charges, he is a criminal. Those actions undermine society's trust in the system that if someone graduates from an institution and that institution certifies that the student did what the records say they did, they may or may not be qualified for jobs, further education, etc. While 38 years is certainly harsh, that is criminal behavior. Our education system is far from perfect but guys like this certainly do not help make it better.

      I would much rather that he applied himself to do well in school and set a good example of what good behavior, studying, and hard work can do when working with the grain, not against it.

      • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:56AM (#23885095) Homepage Journal

        While 38 years is certainly harsh, that is criminal behavior.

        Thirty. Eight. Years. I am far from a bleeding heart, but my God, man! Imagine walking out of high school on your last day and realizing you're now 56. He'll miss the best 4 decades of his life. That's basically life in prison!

        The pendulum's swung, and we have to get some sanity back into sentencing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kripkenstein (913150)

          The pendulum's swung, and we have to get some sanity back into sentencing.

          No sentencing has taken place as of yet.

          56 is the theoretical maximum, if all charges are upheld and if they are consecutive. Neither is likely. It's far more probable that in the end he will be convicted of only part of the 69 offenses, and that the sentences will run concurrently, in other words he'll face a few years in jail.
        • by IorDMUX (870522) <mark.zimmerman3NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:02PM (#23885767) Homepage

          Now, IANAL, but my father is the Asst. County Prosecutor, and I have to tell you that the "38 years" quoted in the article is probably calculated by summing the maximum possible penalties for all of the charges, and then assuming that he's an idiot in prison, too, and never recieves parole or other sympathies.
           
          First off, he likely will not be charged with every single charge and given the maximum penalty and be forced to serve sentences consecutively. Remember that a judge still makes the final sentencing decisions, and is likely to take into account the fact that he is only 18, just leaving high school, etc.
           
          If he even shows a bit of remorse, he'll likely get more community service time than jail time, anyways. (Which is probably to both his and the taxpayers' advantage.)

          • by sumdumass (711423) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @01:05PM (#23886313) Journal

            Hey now, lets not let "facts" and "what typically happens" run into our outrage here. Clear and level minded thinking like yours has no place in this discussion. after all, we are trying to build outrage in order to get public sympathy behind him so he will get off with a slap in the wrist.

            So leave your rash and insightful comments out of this...

            BTW, you probably should define the differences between concurrent and consecutive sentencing. It's possible that he could be convicted and sentenced to all 38 years of punishment and serve them all in the time of the longest charge. If the longest penalty for any given charge is 5 years, then his 38 year sentencing could be over completely in 5 years.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vertinox (846076)

        Our education system is far from perfect but guys like this certainly do not help make it better.

        So instead of just banning him from college or high school graduation, we make him a ward of the state costing us more tax money than he would have flipping burgers?

        And when he does get out of jail, do you think hanging out with rapists, drug addicts, and murders is going to make him turn into a model citizen?

        If we only focused more effort into catching true identity thieves who actually have stolen money and ca

    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:27AM (#23884723) Homepage Journal

      I don't know. If you are willing to break into the school's system to improve your grades, and generally compromise their data, I am not sure it is _they_ turning you into a criminal. I think, if you do that, _you_ are already over the line.

    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:38AM (#23884845)
      The 'he's only a kid!' defense does not apply to someone who is legally an adult.

      Also, he is an outright criminal. This isn't just Ferris Bueller slipping in to adjust his grades a little because he's too cool for school. Burglary, identity theft, multiple counts of fraud? Bueller? Bueller?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Firehed (942385)

        What if he was 17? It's not as if he suddenly knows better at 18 than at 17. I was in... I think fifth grade when I was able to "hack" other students' accounts on our school system. This bizarre combination of logging out of Win3.11 into our DOS menu system, some sort of obscure series of commands, and then typing in the account name and no need to have a password. I never did anything with it other than feel special in being able to do so; still, even back then (age 11?) I knew that it wasn't really OK

    • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:53AM (#23885059)

      They didn't "turn him" into anything. He's a criminal. Period. I could write it off as misguided teenage mischief if he had changed his own grades. Maybe even a grade or two for a girl he was attempting to woo, but he changed grades for twelve people, stole tests and answers and distributed them, and burglarized his school to cover up the fact that - even after proving he could steal test and answers - he was still cheating.

      Where's the "talent?" The only thing he did was read someone's password to initially "hack" the system, and I'll bet $20 that the "remote access program" was something he downloaded from some site with a name like "Teh Supar-3v1L Bl4ck Haxx0rZ La1r!" Giving him a pass because it's a nonviolent crime makes as much sense as letting off anybody who tunnels into a bank because they were clever. He's not talented, he's a sociopath. He should be expelled from school and they should staple a copy of the police report to any transcript they send to a college.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CyberKnet (184349)

      A lot of us were talented kids, even with obvious problems. We didn't all go and do illegal things, did we?

      Being talented is not a "get out of jail free" card. The law should apply evenly to the talented, and the untalented.

      If anything, being talented would infer more likely intent, and aggravate the charges. After all, he's talented, so he should have known better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#23884511)

    Sure the kid is an idiot, but does he deserve 38 years? That's insane.

    Kick him out of school. Hold him back a year. Put him to work in community service.

    People who think he deserves 38 years in prison for being a teenage idiot probably deserve to be in prison themselves.

  • Kamp Krusty (Score:5, Funny)

    by russoc4 (1223476) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#23884513)
    "You know, a D turns into a B so easily. You just got greedy."
  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:05AM (#23884515)
    Just wait until they find out what he has done to WOPR.
  • Correction (Score:3, Informative)

    by poeidon1 (767457) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:08AM (#23884529) Homepage
    its not Kahn (repeated several times in post) but Khan
  • Surely a combination of barring him from ever entering an academic instution again, access to computers, heavy community service, etc etc would be more of an effective punishment then the state feeding, clothing and sheltering this guy for 38 years. I'm not being soft on the guy but it seems like if he had commited a violent crime he would have been looking at less time.

  • Sensationalist? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by youthoftoday (975074)
    Forget the post being sensationalist, what about the legal system? What kind of legal system (or university or whoever is bringing the prosecution) pushes for 40 years for this kind of thing? Clearly not one that expects to do any public good...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:17AM (#23884599)
    My school server (NetWare) is just as bad. Posted anonymously for obvious reasons.

    First off, desktops are fairly locked down. But the server itself allows for RDP connections with any username (not just teachers or students).

    When you're on any old desktop, you can only access your own network share as a virtual drive. When you're connected to the school server, you get:
    -Any documents (class of 2006 or 2007, class of 2008-2011, teachers, ADMINS)
    -Network shares with installer sources and keys in text files (e.x. Microsoft Office 2007 Pro Plus with VLK, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9, EasyGrade Pro 3, Houghton Mifflin Test Generator to accompany textbooks, etc.)
    -Access to the attendance share (which is outsourced, but the administrative login is kept on said server in house)
    -Access to backups from the other schools (junior high, intermediate, elementary)

    I was appalled when I found this out. For ethical reasons (and the legal penalties), I decided not to tell anyone or anything. Mainly because in 8th grade, my friend got his computer privileges suspended for the year when we told the computer staff that you could get a command prompt through Internet Explorer, and he almost got a disciplinary record over it.

    We tried to help them, and he got in trouble (luckily, no legal issues).(We'd send NET SEND messages to other computers - e.g. "Jane, this is the computer. That's a nice purple sweater you're wearing :)", freaked a lot of people out).

    Ever since, whenever I've found a computer issue, I've kept my mouth shut, because it's not worth the trouble.


    More on topic...this guy has what's coming to him. I think 38 years is too harsh (maybe a couple of years and more punishment in probation), but his malicious intent and clear intent makes me have no sympathy for him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "Jane, this is the computer. That's a nice purple sweater you're wearing :)"

      Sweater???? You took all risk just to send message about sweater?? Jesus!!

    • by The Ultimate Fartkno (756456) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:06AM (#23885171)

      Ever since, whenever I've found a computer issue, I've kept my mouth shut, because it's not worth the trouble.
      What trouble? Two words - anonymous email. Write up a detailed list of their security holes, get an email account that can't be traced back to you, and send them a message that says "here are your problems. I'm not exploiting them but someday someone will. Fix it or don't, it's not my problem."

      Voila. The ball's in their court. If they ignore it then they deserve to get owned. If they fix the issues you can drop them a note saying congratulations. If they haven't done anything in six months send copies of your correspondence to the local news and watch the fireworks fly as Link Beefingham and the WHAX Investigative Flying News Squad descend on your school for a live, in-depth report on how the administration refuses to protect Little Johnny and Susie from child pornography, Chinese military hackers, and internet jihadists.

      "Principal Landingham! Principal Landingham! WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?"

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:22AM (#23884675) Journal

    Not surprisingly, his parents (who have only recently immigrated to America) have decided not to post the $50,000 bail and Kahn is in jail awaiting trial.

    I don't know what so unsurprising about that. No parent wants their kid to spend time in freakin' lockup. Further, they can leverage $5,000 of real dollars with a bail bondsman to post $50k, so they just need to sell the kid's computer and scrape together a few thousand more to spare him potentially weeks behind bars.

    Heck, banks will loan the money for bail, and I seriously doubt they get the loan-shark like interest the bail bondsman would.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      No parent wants their kid to spend time in freakin' lockup.

      You didn't have the joy of 'tough love' parents then. If I'd screwed up this bad, I'd have been declining bail.

      Other than that, it's a matter of finances in some cases. That $5k of 'real dollars' to the bail bondsman is forfeit even if the kids shows up in court. If they're 'newly' arrived, they're likely low on funds, lack credit history, all that.

      So the question becomes 'do we bail him out or spend the $5k on a lawyer to keep him out of prison?

  • Better Summary... (Score:5, Informative)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) * on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:29AM (#23884733)
    Is at Gizmodo [gizmodo.com]

    The kid is also facing burglary charges because he stole a key to the school and used it to break in several times. The first thing to remember in this case is that it's not just a simple computer crime case, and that 12 other students also had their grades changed.

    Further, of course the kid faces 38 years; every one of the small crimes he committed carry a maximum penalty. If you add them all up, you get 38 years. Obviously that doesn't mean that the kid is going to serve anywhere near that amount.

    Now, I'm not sitting here saying that this kid should get 38 years. Far from it. But I do think that some jail time is called for. In addition to the burglary charge and the financial hit to fix the problems he caused, he hurt a lot of students. Consider this: For every one of the 13 kids who moved into the top 10% ranking, someone who had earned their spot had to leave. That student may not have been able to get into the college of his or her choice, and - far more importantly - may have missed out on substantial scholarship money. This kid wasn't just harming his high school through the added expense to audit records and security policies, he was hurting totally innocent fellow students.
  • I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CyberData4 (1247268) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:38AM (#23884851)
    I mean...what the kid did was dumb, granted. But should his ENTIRE life really be completely ruined because he tried to cheat and boost his test scores in fucking high school? Seriously? There are rapists that face less jail time. Murderers who face less jail time. Corrupt politicians who start wars with other nations, unprovoked...that face no jail time. And you're going to hop on the "he's getting what he deserves" bandwagon? Shit, I *DO* support that kid. And yes, he's just a kid. A dumb, arrogant kid that made a stupid mistake. But in the end, no ones been harmed except himself. Expell him from school. Make him repeat the 12th grade. Let him stand on his own two at a community college until he can prove that he's ready for a 4 year program. I just don't think this is worth destroying a life over......
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @10:41AM (#23884913) Homepage Journal

    Ok, so the kid is a greedy one, changing all of his grades to As ;)

    But he is also not very socially bright, think about the other 12 kids for whome he changed the grades, someone was bound to talk. Or maybe a parent saw a dramatic grade change and called a teacher for whatever reason etc.

    You just don't include 12 more people into your 'crime'. It's not a secret anymore after that.

    Still, 38 years is just nuts. Make him pass the highschool exams again, put him into community service (with the other 12 kids by the way.) Also fine him for a few thousand bucks for the trouble and that should be that. His parents will take care of the rest of the punishment, I am certain.

    Anyway, Khaaaaaaan! I suppose.

  • by Guppy (12314) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:16AM (#23885275)

    I bet if he had instead changed some everyone's grades to "D-E-A-D-B-E-E-F" the judge would have just lold and put a "1337 Pwnage" into his permanent record instead.

  • by stubear (130454) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @11:41AM (#23885547)

    Jesus fucking christ people, why is it whenever a story like this comes out everyone jumps on the statutory MAXIMUMS. The kid committed *69* felony counts and it is possible, though highly unlikely, that the MAXIMUM jail time he could face for ALL these charges is 38 years. If you think hackers should face NO penalties for their actions then grow a pair, step on the sop box and say so but don't keep harping on statutory MAXIMUMS as if they are evil incarnate that you must rid the world of.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday June 21, 2008 @12:27PM (#23885999)

    We look at the crime, but not at the intention behind it. If we did, the same punishment should be meted out for someone who is caught cheating on his tests. The intended result is the same: Getting a grade he didn't earn the "legal" way.

    Why is hacking a computer to fudge the grade worse than using cheat sheets? Why isn't anyone who cribbed his doctor thesis facing 40ish years in prison (which is, IMO, a worse offense than cheating with your grades, we're talking about a thesis that allows you to bear a title, which does hold a lot of meaning in some countries)?

    Look at the crime, not at the way it was committed.

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