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[dupe] Is This Justice? Charging an Eighth Grader with a Felony for “Hacking” (eff.org)
442 points by CapitalistCartr on Apr 20, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments

"Who knows what this teenager might have done"

So you're going to charge teenagers with crimes based on "what they might have done" now? A bit minority report, don't ya think? This statement standing alone is a huge concern for civil liberties. Arresting someone and charging them for one crime based on your opinion of "what they might have done" seems remarkably heavy handed.

But who knows what this kid is like, perhaps he was a little hellion making this teacher's life a nightmare [was the teacher gay? homophobic? I don't know the back story here] and this was just the straw that broke the camels back? Eventually we all snap when pushed and kids know how to push your buttons better than anyone. Perhaps he needed be kept in check and have his boundaries enforced to reset his notion of what is and isn't acceptable conduct. But equally... a felony for a [hopefully harmless] prank that is common practice in I.T. environments around the world, that's a bit weak.

At least he's only a kid and it'll be sealed on his 18th birthday. However, it'll be attached to his school record and follow him around like a bad smell until he leaves academia. So I guess he'll learn his lesson... all be it a bitter consequence to what amounted to something largely harmless.

> "Who knows what this teenager might have done"

> So you're going to charge teenagers with crimes based on "what they might have done" now? A bit minority report, don't ya think?

They are throwing the book at him for a crime that he has admitted to committed (unauthorized access of a computer system). This a crime regardless of "what he may have done." The fact that no one is stopping to say, "Let's rethink this guys," is an indictment the police / prosecutors involved in this case.

This is a bit like charging a child with Breaking & Entering because he snuck into his friend's house through a window to play a prank on him, and the cops "aren't sure what he really did while in the house."

Edit: Fixed formatting

In previous posts A LOT more info was disclosed.

- MANY students had the admin password. It was freely passed around for the students to complete work from home remotely.

- The admin password was the last name of a popular teacher.

- He logged in using the same admin password all the other students use and freely have access to.

What exactly "unauthorized access" means is still being ironed out in case-law. Just because you have access to something doesn't mean that you are authorized. Prosecutors have attempted to push "hacking" charges against people for accessing something on a shared drive (with no technical permission restrictions) because the employee was not "authorized" to view said file.

Just because the students had the admin password doesn't mean that they had permission/authorization to access that teacher's physical computer. Even if they had permission to do that, they probably didn't have permission to access the wallpaper settings.

This is really a failure of the laws in question to be less broad, and a failure of prosectors / cops to show some sort of restraint.

This is incompetency of the school network administrators. No crime was committed here.

Well, not quite; it is like charging a child with breaking & entering because snuck into his teacher's house through a window to play a prank.

Can you pause to examine why you think it's necessary to substitute "friend" for "teacher" in your analogy to make it work for you?

Presumably, "friend's house" is a place where you've been before (possibly even overnight), where all the household members know where you are and where you are generally welcome.

Not at all like breaking into a house, breaking into a house is a violation of physical safety and comfort. One's home is one's sanctuary, and an invasion is quite frightening.

This is analogous to the student noticing the teacher left their keys at their desk, taking the keys to unlock a private desk drawer, and putting some naughty picture in the drawer. At most, such a prank would merit a week of detention. Calling it a criminal offense of felony hacking is insane.

> breaking into a house is a violation of physical safety and comfort

There is an interpretation of your above words that the occupants are unsafe because of what the intruder could do even it doesn't happen.

That is analogous to the argument that the privacy and integrity of the data stored in that computer were unsafe, because of "who knows what this teenager might have done".

> One's home is one's sanctuary, and an invasion is quite frightening.

Whereas, say, an invasion of your e-mail, social networking, bank account, credit card, or medical or government file or whatever else just something you can brush off and move on with your life.

Hmm, on further thought, my intuition is that the severity of the crime actually depends on being caught in the act, versus caught after the prank.

Situation one: Imagine the students break into the teachers house to pull some prank while the teacher is sleeping. The teacher gets terrified, calls the cop, and the students get caught.

Situation two: the students wait until they know nobody is home, then break into the teachers house and pull some prank, like leaving a naught blow-up doll on the couch. Later someone tattles and they find out which students did it.

Situation one, you are more likely to have to treat the crime like felony burglary, since they caused trauma, and for all you know the claim of it being a prank is just an after the fact excuse. If you let them use that excuse, then any burglar could use that excuse.

Situation two, you treat them leniently, since obviously if they intended to do real harm, they would not have left a call sign, and they would have actually stolen something. So you know there was no malicious intent, so you do not need to treat them like felons.

It's the same with the computer. If the teacher walked in on the students using the computer, you would have to treat it a lot more seriously, because you would have to assume maliciousness. But once the prank is pulled, then you treat it more leniently, since if they were truly malicious they would have stole the information without leaving any footprints.

I don't know if we want to legally separate the physical and digital worlds like that. Isn't that the whole complaint with the NSA? Someone entering your home to do something might sound scarier than them doing something remotely. However, what is the difference if both results are the same, especially considering the ease of the latter compared to the former?

I chose "friend's house" because the analogy doesn't really account for the ease with which it is to "break and enter" into a computer system if you just watched someone type their password. Maybe you could say that he "broke into" a teacher's house through an open window?

I make this distinction because destruction of property could be an issue with a physical break-in (via the act of breaking in).

If we're going to keep the analogy going...

The teacher has had students over before, and unlocks his/her home by grabbing the key out of the fake rock sitting on the doorstep. The student uses that key and wrote something obscene with the fridge magnets.

It's not quite breaking and entering, but it's more than trespassing.

i like that version, and the "lasting" consequences are the same. move the letters back to spell "i love teaching", aka change your background back to whatever cat picture was there before.

If you must use an analogy it's a good idea to keep it close to the original act. In this case that could be "accessing the teachers office via keypad". House suggests another level of privacy.

Yes, entering a home through an open window or unlocked door counts as "burglary", a.k.a. "break and enter".

The offense is an abstraction that doesn't require physically damaging any security mechanism.

By your reasoning, picking a lock or guessing a combination couldn't be breaking in because you didn't literally break anything.

> By your reasoning, picking a lock or guessing a combination couldn't be breaking in because you didn't literally break anything.

What reasoning? I said that "breaking and entering" can happen through an open window. My point was to modify the analogy so that the act of breaking & entering was "easy" and non-destructive bringing it closer to the level of severity in the situation that we are discussing.

Gaining access to someone's password has a much lower bar than something like picking a lock which requires a certain set of skills, and may imply a certain level of intent. The student didn't hookup a laptop to the school network and run metasploit.

Actually the definition includes "with criminal intent". Without that, there's no crime.

That aspect seems to be state-dependent in the US, according to:


In New York, the intent is not required. However, ironically with regard to this case, it is that way in Florida.

Hm. I followed that link, and didn't read anything about intent not being required. What did I miss?

Again, semantics, but I'd say it's more akin to a kid breaking into school, not the teacher's home.

Or, more likely, the teacher's briefcase.

Yes, using a computer feels a lot like going to an actual physical place. But we forget, it's a portable piece of property. It contains sensitive documents, but it's not breaking and entering.

In this particular case, the password was widely known. The teacher must have known that it is known, yet didn't bother changing it, thereby tacitly authorizing those who know the password to use that computer. In effect, the computer was public to the same extent like school property, such as a blackboard. I'm sure the defense will wield some version of this argument.

> but it's not breaking and entering

Well, nobody said it is, including the prosecutors, who are charging the kid with some information-technology-specific crime (informally, "hacking"), and not "burglary".

> but it's not breaking and entering

It's called an analogy. "Breaking & Entering" is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a situation where the act of someone gaining access to something is itself a crime. In this case, the student is being charged with "hacking" which according to the Federal law is gaining "unauthorized access" to a computer system.

What would be the crime committed in breaking into the teacher's briefcase? Theft during the duration of time that the student gain 'possession' of the briefcase to open it?

>Well, not quite; it is like charging a child with breaking & entering because snuck into his teacher's house through a window to play a prank.

Which is again BS. Kids used to do all that and much more when America was a freer country, with not much more than a smack at the back...

and look where that has led... the lack of notable consequences for ones actions tend to lead you down the path of "I'll do whatever I please because the only real consequences are a slap on the wrist," or rather "I know my rights and with a competent lawyer, I'll get off anyway, I don't really care how that affects you or anyone else." There appears to be little empathy for how one's actions affect everyone around you, with everyone looking out for themselves and feeling like the country somehow owes them something.

Fair enough this was a prank, and sure, we all used to do a lot more... and these days you can't let your kids run free without the police picking them up on their way to or at the park and attempting to charge the parents with criminal neglect. There is little that makes sense about any of this.

When talking about social changes, "look where that has led..." is definitely a good argument... in a bar, not in a serious conversation.

This kind of event is simply caused by the excessive increase of policing, and the political profit of such events; it's not a really special or complex phenomenon.

The major consequence is a context which supports excessive penalties for people, in which unreasonable laws, vampire prosecutors and self-obsessed politicians prosper. Proceedings like this are a product of all the above - in the era of cyberwar, the government turned even minor incidents are into major crimes, in order to make an example, and to get the political monopoly on cyberoffense; such cases are quite common.

Wherever the excessive increase of policing comes... well, that definitely is a complex and special phenomenon, but I guess it's off topic.

> and look where that has led...

I'd like to see a reliable source on that. The cultural differences with most countries in western-Europe certainly don't seem to support your assertions.

>and look where that has led...

In societies much safer, saner and less violent, back in the days when what I desribed used to be the case (30's, 40's, 50's, 60's etc)?

LOL we used to run free even in the 80's and 90's. Back then society was no safer, it's just we didn't have the media pumping fear into us every day. It's ridiculous how cooped up kids are becoming with parents expected to supervise (or even have someone else to supervise) their kids every minute of every day. That's not helping. Kids need time to themselves to find themselves and learn to stand alone.

This seems like rose-coloured glasses.

It's a poor analogy in general, but given the context of the school, it's a bit more like a kid walking into the open front door that everyone else used, and then hanging up a poster. Computer security doesn't really exist in highschools/gradeschools it seems.

Sadly if he'd brought a gun to school and shot the computer he'd probably be in a better legal situation.

Given the NSA's invasion of everyone's privacy, everyone there would probably have been in a better legal situation :P

Arguing analogies is hopeless: arguing about specifics, changing minor details to make a point is arguing a synthetic case that has no bearing on the actual case under discussion.

Whether you illegally entered someone's house, garden shed, school office, car, briefcase, lunch box, coat pocket, smartphone or computer are things that are different in important ways.

Whether you had to force your way in, schemed and lied to perform your act or could perform it without any trouble matters.

What someone subsequently did is also relevant. Planting a note 'your ... was open' differs from planting a turd or an explosive.

We are dealing with someone that changed the background of a desktop on a computer obviously left easily accessible. That is what should be discussed.

Except it's more like he opened the (locked) screen door to put a poster in it and didn't open the (locked with the same key) door that led to the rest of the house. If anything, it's criminal mischief..

It said that students using teacher's passwords was rampant. I can imagine that some non-technical teachers weren't actually keeping their password a secret, out of convenience.

Is run-of-the-mill B&E a felony? What're the relative gravities?

IMO, its more about the proliferation of Prosecutors who aren't taking advantage of prosecutorial discretion.

I think any judge / jury will agree that giving a felony to a kid who has only changed a wallpaper is absurd. But that isn't the point, the point is that the prosecutor wants to appear "tough on crime" and jack up the numbers on the "number of cases prosecuted".

The problem here isn't the law. The problem is the widespread culture of prosecutors.

EDIT: I found a better quote from the officer. It looks like this kid was a repeat offender. That's a big no-no actually... hmm....

Care to share the better quote?

edit: I'm guessing it's this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9408038

Well, I'd largely say a friend probably wouldn't have charged their friend for B&E if it was for the purpose of a prank. If it had been something more nefarious, he probably would have.

Throwing the book at him is a bit harsh... but it really depends on the context. Fair enough, they don't know what he did. Fair enough he copped to the crime and that at first glance appears to be the extent of the "damage".

If this was a one off, okay, laugh it off. "You got me, you little bugger, but I'll get you back." No police needed. In which case this punishment is off the charts heavy handed... the punishment should definitely fit the crime.

If this is the actions of a kid that was constantly engaging in persecution of this teacher, he's been warned, sent to the principal's office, suspended etc. then it's easy to see how it could escalate. I fail to see how anything beyond expulsion is necessary... but some people do tend to blow things out of all proportion.

Regardless of context, I wish police and prosecutors (and the rest of us) would much much more cautious about indicting a child for crimes, even violent ones. Children don't have fully developed brains and are hard wired to behave recklessly. Getting them involved in the criminal justice system and ruining their lives at such a young age is idiotic.

I think this is one of the most important points here. Even from a practical perspective, the amount of damage done to a child by "throwing the book" at her will end up costing the state many times over. And then there's the fact that it's just inhumane.

Interesting you would use the gender "her" instead of "them"... it's unfair to cast a bias towards one gender or another for misbehaviour.

A bit off topic, but I simply thing this is the commenter trying to be grammatically correct without using "him" as is standard in English. I've noticed quite a few writers lately (especially in tech) doing this more often. I seemed to remember RMS doing this in a recent post of his, using feminine pronouns as the generic singular 3rd person.

Interesting point. I'm not sure I agree with the connotation of sexism that it promotes. I would feel a gender neutral pronoun such as they/them/their would be more appropriate, regardless of grammatical correctness.

Grammatical correctness is a fluid thing. "they/them/their" used singularily is one of those things that is on the edge of being accepted. Thing is, schools are slow to react and will keep saying it's wrong using a rigid form of thinking about grammatical correctness.

> "they/them/their" used singularily is one of those things that is on the edge of being accepted.

On the edge of being accepted? It's been part of standard English for over 500 years!

It may or may not have been in customary informal usage for that long [citation needed], but it is still considered incorrect in strict, rigorous, formal usage. (Yes, this is on the cusp of changing, but for now, it's still true.) In formal usage, pronouns agree in gender and in number with their antecedents.

You can easily find citations in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they from Chaucer, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, George Bernard Shaw, and so on. It's not "customary informal usage", it's just a regular, ordinary feature of the English language.

In the absence of a third person, singular pronoun of ambiguous gender in English, I prefer to use "her" as it makes a nice change from the standard use of the masculine pronoun that is all too common.

Read into that what you will, but perhaps you're just trying too hard to take offence.

Be careful with this, I come from a country where someone below 18 can't be indicted for a crime. Regardless of the crime.

There has been cases of 17-year-old minors raping and killing that went completely free (or spent a few months in juvie).

What I'm saying with this is that yes, I agree with you: The age of the perp should be considered. But we should also consider the crime in question.

In this case, both age and 'crime' account for what is just a prank with no harm done (apart from bruising some teacher's ego). Even expelling the child would seem to me a bit excessive, but I could understand the school doing that. Anything more is just disproportionate.

An example from today. A 13 year old boy kills one person and injures some others with a crossbow. He's unlikely to face criminal charges because 14 is the age of criminal responsibility in spain.


'Not facing criminal charges' does not mean 'not being punished'. Kids like this are often placed in the care of the government until they are 18. They may also be forced to undergo psychiatric treatment. Neither is a cakewalk.

I didn't say he was avoiding punishment. I said he was notgoing to face criminal charges. I'm not sure what your point is, or how your comment applies to anything I wrote.

So in crimes like that, essentially no one is held responsible for the murder. The kid, being under thirteen, is a free agent, a loose cannon, able to freely commit any crime he/she wishes with no possibility of anyone facing consequences for it.

Am I the only one who thinks parents should be held criminally responsible for not training their kids properly? It makes sense, doesn't it? If the child isn't considered responsible, then the person responsible for the child should be.

Somehow the society is geared towards saving young pregnable wombs. Leave your wife? Pay maintenance. Have a kid that doesn't live with you? Pay maintenance. Don't pay maintenance? Go to jail. Kids is murderer. Whhaa? Poor baby.

And that is the country (and the law) I was referring to.

Let me guess. That country is India and that rape was a group-rape with 3 other adults and this 1 minor boy. A country where more than 50% of rape cases involve ex-girlfriends and ex-boyfriends and where not marrying a girlfriend is considered rape.

Did you participate in that candle march?

Lets not be careful at all at uploading some basic truths - minors are minors and we _adults_ can't change the definition based on our communal level of outrage.

India? Wow you've gone far away... Nope, Spain, right in 'civilized' western europe.

The incident I mention, by the way, happened a few years ago and it was a group of high schoolers, all of them minors (except one, whose 18th birthday had happened a few months before, he was the only one charged as an adult).

I'm not sure about the violent ones... there has to come a point where the child learns that there are real harm and real consequences that occur for your actions. They have to understand that just because we (as parents) have shielded them from the consequences of their actions where we can, there comes a point where the protection we afford them reaches its limit. Even rich celebrities with endless reserves of cash to buy the best lawyers on the planet come to a point where they have to deal with the consequences of their idiotic decisions.

There are different levels of violent crime. I'm not sure a child should be prosecuted for assault in most instances, for example. Rape or murder, well, that they should be. But to say that even they should be prosecuted as an adult, and put away for life, or even executed? It seems absurd to say, "this 13 year old needs to learn that actions have consequences, so we will ruin their life and make it impossible for them to apply the lesson we've taught them and become a productive member of society." If they need to be taught a lesson, great, put them under heavy supervision until they're 18 or 21, with lots of help and lots of counseling. I'm just not willing to say that a teenager is beyond help and should be treated as a bad seed just because they made bad choices as a teenager. Teenagers make bad choices; it's what they do.

It's not so much that they threw the book at him that troubles me, but that the book exists in the first place.

A felony charge used to be a big deal - now it's a catch-all charge used to intimidate defendants into pleading out instead of risking a jury trial.

That's the cause of the prison system which is privatized and beholden to shareholders to make profits. They have a large lobby used to persuade the government to protect and pass laws that serve this purpose. At some point or another, with the way things are going everyone will find themselves in a position where they have to make this decision.

Well, in fairness, a good number of laws ostensibly designed for public safety are very much predicated on the idea of what you might do, and stopping you before said act is hypothetically done.

Not that I agree with this particular case or even such laws in general, but it's hardly something outside social consensus.

There's an entire layer here which is missing, which you touch upon - everyone seems to be focussed on the police's stance on this - whereas I'm more curious as to why on earth a teacher would contact the police over a matter such as this. Fragile ego? Authority complex? Sadistic tendencies?

Certainly it can't be that he had this pupil's best interests at heart - and therefore it seems equally likely that he has no pupils' interests at heart, and is there to collect a pay-check, and nothing more.

If anything, the issue here is that people who really should not be teachers, are.

"At least he's only a kid and it'll be sealed on his 18th birthday" .. to bad it doesn't really work like that.

I was unaware that in Florida it doesn't work like this. I hope for the kids sake then that he gets a slap on the wrist and realizes just how lucky he was not to get the book thrown at him and that it was only by the grace of the judge's goodwill that he got lucky... if the judge had been having a bad day, he could equally have had the book thrown at him.

Expound please? I can use my imagination but am curious about your specific point.

Doesn't work like that in Florida.

Also, the press released the kid's name. A shame on the press for this mistake.

In one of the articles, it calls out that the child and his mother both specifically gave permission for their names to be used by the press.

Then shame on the child and his mother for such short-sighted thinking.

That depends on her perspective. Perhaps she too is at the end of her rope with a troublesome child and perhaps this is her way of saying enough is enough. You've been warned, suspended and now the police are involved. If you're big boy enough to think you can keep breaking the rules despite our best efforts to keep you safe and protect you from the consequences of your actions, then you're big boy enough to deal with the real world consequences of your actions. Please Mr. Reporter, feel free to use our names in the hope that seeing his name in print finally gets through to my kid and he learns the error of his ways - because the next step is juvenile hall and I'd prefer to keep him out of there if possible.

Short sighted? Perhaps... but some kids always tend to the wrong side of the rules. Perseverance is tough when your guidance and advice is ignored and scorned at every turn. Despite your best efforts your kid always thinks they know what's best and they can do what you want. You get to a point where they cross a line of acceptability and you have to let the kid fall and hope like hell you've instilled them with the ability to figure their own way out of it.

Only a dumb parent can convert a situation involving a charge of a crime (that was going to be dropped pre-trial) into permanent damage as this kid's name is now published permanently on the internet.

The tradeoff is insane. The newspaper should NOT have published the kid's name.

"Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done..."

Who knows what students in cooking class holding butcher knives might do?

Who knows what police might do when entering people's houses. Shoot dogs that bark. Who knows what the dog might do? https://news.vice.com/article/san-diego-police-shoot-mans-se...

Who knows what police might do when chasing down a homeless person. Shoot them forty-six times. Who knows what an homeless might do? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/footage-sho...

Who knows what police might do when they see your children pranking each other in Walmart with a fake gun? Shoot them. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/cops-shoot-and-kill-man-holding-t...

I don't like what this Florida Police Officer is doing.

But focusing on a single poorly spoken sentence is absurd. I understand that police sheriffs are politicians, so this is generally considered "fair game" in American Politics. But this is an obviously bad, off-the-cuff remark that Chris Nocco shouldn't have said.

But the amount of focus that has been given to this absurd statement is ridiculous. It is a demonstration of our short-attention span and love of "gotcha" catchphrases that are destroying American Politics.

Lets do this rationally. Lets start by looking for a written official statement from this Officer before making fun of his views.


Here's a better quote from this officer.

"I think, unfortunately, when the story's being told in other (publications), they're not talking about the fact that he committed this crime previously," Nocco said Monday. "We enforce the law. And if we don't enforce the law, nobody else will."

Knowing that this guy is a repeat offender changes the calculus significantly. I think everyone can get a free pass once. The 2nd pass, maybe the officer is just showing the kid that he really has the power to prosecute him (without necessarily going forward with the intent on actually doing so).

The kid's lawyer likely contacted the eff / press to make the officer back off a bit. In the end, the kid is going to get off with a slap on the wrist and a bit of disdain for the officers of this country.

See, that's fair enough. He'd done it before and deserves to receive some penalty for his actions to show him that there are consequences for your actions and you need to consider the consequences before you commit the crime. But there is a generally accepted (and somewhat sane) process in academia.

- Warning from the teacher & perhaps a letter/call home to the parents

- Sent to the principal & perhaps another letter/call home to the parents, warning of suspension

- Suspension

- Expulsion

- Police (& perhaps juvenile detention based on the crime)

Kids are kids... Grade 8 is what? 13, 14 years old? I'm not saying that being a kid automatically gives you a walk, but kids make dumb decisions every day. Lord knows plenty of adults do too, but for kids that goes double. They don't have the smarts, foresight or experience to make good decisions yet, so they need to be taught. Hopefully the kid does get a slap on the wrist and hopefully he realizes that he got lucky and breathes a sigh of relief rather than taking the lesson that he can do what he wants and with the right lawyer he can get away with murder. Because who knows what he'll do if he learns a lesson like that... probably become the CEO of a bank or oil conglomerate or something.

The kid was already suspended in October.

Which means the order that is going on right now is...

- Warning from Teacher

- Sent to the principal

- 3-day Suspension <--- Happened in October

- Police + 10-day Suspension

- Expulsion

Which frankly, doesn't sound that "unjust" to me at all.

Police scaring the kid sounds fine, but a felony? Using a well-known password in a place with terrible security to do a mostly harmless prank results in a felony? That isn't justice.

"He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said."

They aren't planning to put the felony on his record. They're gonna drop it pre-trial.


Wasn't the EFF's entire press release about pointing out the fallacy of the phrase you just uttered?

"Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done..."

"Even though some might say this is just a Police disciplinary scare tactic... who knows what this Police Officer could have done..."

If the kid was a repeat offender, have you considered the other side of the coin?

If he only logged in by using a well-know/shared password, and there really was sensitive/personal information, then shame on the school for REPEATEDLY failing to SECURE that information.

IMO a better use of our criminal justice system would be prosecuting the school for some kind of criminal negligence (though that would also be an overreaction... just saying it would be a better use than this nonsense).

"Fool me once..." and all that

Nope. I try not to victim blame.

Even when the victim legitimately deserves the blame? If I jump in front of someone shooting a gun at target practice, are you going to support charging them with manslaughter? If I jump off a bridge, are you going to blame the bridge builder?

> If I jump in front of someone shooting a gun at target practice, are you going to support charging them with manslaughter?

Manslaughter: unintentional killing that results from recklessness or criminal negligence.

Last time I checked, we didn't charge that little girl who shot the gun instructor in the head with an Uzi. Your understanding of the criminal system is poor, please read up on it before continuing this conversation.

My understanding of the criminal system is fine. Your ability to reason sensibly, rather than using the "victim blaming" semantic stop-sign, is more questionable. Your ability to carry on a polite conversation is quite obviously deficient.

Yep, sounds like we should definitely throw children in prison because they keep changing that dang wallpaper.

"We enforce the law, especially when it is an outmoded reaction to children, if we dont have ridiculous reactions to things, nobody else will."

Police officers have the power to scare without having to prosecute, this is just giving an officer a free pass for something that (if needed) should have ended with a kid in the back of a squad car driven home, not with an national press release from the eff.

> Police officers have the power to scare without having to prosecute, this is just giving an officer a free pass for something that (if needed) should have ended with a kid in the back of a squad car driven home, not with an national press release from the eff.

And since the officer seems to have already done that last October, and the kid continues to access the computer... What should the officer do then?

Maybe the officer should suggest that the school and district have a better systems security policy? And that youth who seem to get passwords should be suspended from class? Or expelled for repeat offenders? Or possibly have a community service program for these sorts of cases?

Why did the police need to be called at all? This is the centeral question in this case. Are we trying to say at this point schools and districts and parents can't punish for minor offenses like pranking a teach?

The kid already was suspended in October.

Which means the kid has already shown disdain against the teachers. They're escalating the issue very naturally. And the Police seem like they're working in such a way to prevent any permanent damage on the kid's record.

A felony charge is a very scary proposition to go through. But ultimately, its a slap on the wrist (its a charge, they haven't actually written anything to his permanent record yet), and the sheriff detectives have made it clear that they expect the kid to be let go during the pre-trial process.

So far, there isn't any permanent harm to the kid's record. So... what's the problem exactly?

We can certainly agree to disagree. But to answer your question, the issue here is that police, and the law, are being pulled in to a situation as punishment in a way that they are not meant to be used. A felony may, in this case (and I do mean may, since one this goes into a trial phase, the police have little control over how prosecutors and judges handle the charge) be a slap on the wrist and then go away. However, a felony should not be used to slap someone on the wrist. This is a slippery legal slope.

For example, I recently began a contract at a large and well known company. In the first week I stepped away from my personal laptop and while away my coworker got onto the machine and changed my background to a large picture from "My Little Ponys" which said "Love ya Brony". By the Florida law outlined in this case, my coworker had committed a felony. Evidently he does this regularly. He is a repeat offender. Should he be prosecuted? This is, quite literally the same scenario. What is the right legal course of action?

I personally believe he should not be. If people were to be upset his situation would be handled as an hr violation. If he continued to not listen to hr he would be fired. There is no need for law enforcement in this situation.

I don't think we disagree on these points.

My issue is that a lot of people in this thread don't seem to have basic information or an understanding of how law works. Even the EFF's language on their news release making a mountain out of a molehill.

Chances are, the teachers were inadequate at disciplining this kid. The mistake is in the school for not having adequate disciplinary tactics. They are outsourcing their discipline to the police.

But when I look at what the Police are doing specifically, I don't think they are doing anything wrong yet. There is potential for harm of course, but...

"Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done..."

With everyone making fun of that comment, it seems bad form for "Who knows what the prosecutor could do..." be the thesis of an argument.

>With everyone making fun of that comment, it seems bad form for "Who knows what the prosecutor could do..."

The prosecutor already charged him with a felony. That is already way over the line. Your objection doesn't fit.

Charging a kid with a felony has absolutely no effect on the kid's permanent record. That is a fact.

Now if they _actually_ put the felony on his record, that would have been going over the line. But simply using the felony as a scare tactic against this kid is IMO within the bounds of reason. A bit strict yes, as it forces the kid's family to pay for a lawyer to fight it. But overall, its not really that big of a deal.

>Pay for a lawyer to fight it

And if the kid's family is not rich enough to afford a legal battle that is literally for nothing?

An expensive legal battle because no one knows how to properly punish a child.

Payroll for the police and booking agents, potentially even a show trial. Utter nonsense.

Fine his parents $100, expel him from regular class for a week and have him do homework in a separate room by himself. Parents will scold him, he has to pay a price that actually registers. (at 14 I'm more concerned with losing 2 weeks of Xbox than a felony legal status I don't fully appreciate). He'll probably not do it again, or maybe he will, who cares, unless he escalates it's fine. That's just kids being dumb, and at age 17 it's not even interesting anymore.

I mean jeez, a felony? Give me a break. Kid changed a freaking wall paper. If he had done that 50 times in a row, you still don't give a felony, that's ridiculous and carries extremely heavy consequences.

I mean, for god's sake, there is a professional apartheid system. You have a felony? You get discriminated, for a job, for access to uni, for access to housing etc etc. It's discrimination, period. Why do we relegate 14 year old's to that position for changing a wallpaper in a prank, even if he did it 10 times?

The only reason this discrimination of people with a felony makes sense, is if we put the label of felony only on people who ought to be discriminated against. i.e. similarly to how if you molest a child, you're labelled a child molester and get discriminated against if you want to work at a school, with few exceptions this is usually a very sensible thing to do. But when we give a label (including the burden of the discrimination affecting people with a felony) to a 14 year old prankster, we can't justify it.

History is full of people who have lived wonderful, moral, lives, who made great contributions to society and went on to be upstanding citizens, who pranked way worse. You really think these people ought to have been given felonies, too?

There's a ton of iterative steps both in punishment and prevention. It usually starts with targeting parents, with council from people a kid looks up to (i.e. not the principal), with luxuries like games being taken away etc. Really I don't get it, changing a wallpaper on a computer is like pulling your kid brothers' hair, it's not something the police has to get involved in. It's a parenting/school type issue, not a criminal one.

If sensitive info was on the computer, sorry but it's not very relevant. 1) Someone do your job, you get paid for security or have security responsibilities that get wasted by a 14 year old. 2) How should the kid know, he didn't even touch or target it. If we start punishing people for what they 'might' have done, oh boy... talk about Orwellian thought crimes, it's beyond ridiculous. We can convict anyone of anything the moment the show the slightest intention to pull a prank.



A loose security protocol means kids will do stuff.

So kids do stuff.

Educators get upset over it.

Kids do more stuff.

Educators get more upset.

Kids do more stuff.

Educators get REALLY upset and call the police.

Kids may well do more stuff.

Where in there do we talk about how the kids are doing stuff?

Seems to me, a simple teachers meeting to discuss these things would yield a remedy without having to call authorities.

A remedy, like changing the password?

Maybe discuss why and how kids need to have it to do work at home?

Asking the question, "what might the kids do?, or "what might this kid do?" is a fair question.

But asking, "What do we do about that?" procedurally is also fair.

They didn't do that. They called the police.

Seems to me, there potentially is an education problem with the educators as much as there is a problem kid.

> He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said.

I hate to repeat myself... but people don't seem to have the basic facts about this case.

The Police ARE NOT PLANNING TO PUT THE FELONY ON HIS OFFICIAL RECOROD. Its part of the scare tactic. They are going to let him go pretrial.

The police should not be using threats and intimidation to teach kids a lesson.

It doesn't even make any sense, tell the kid you are arresting him to teach him a lesson and then announce to the media that all you are doing is teaching the kid a lesson, don't worry about it.

Will the kid notice in the media that you announced that you were just teaching him a lesson? Probably. Will this undermine the value of said lesson? Probably.

> The police should not be using threats and intimidation to teach kids a lesson.

Those are the only tools the Police have. Ideally, the school shouldn't have stuck the police on the job. This is a failure of the school system as they outsource their disciplinary actions to the Police. (Something I see all too often in schools...)

But as far as police actions are concerned, I'd say this is fair game and rather merciful in the great scheme of things. As noted, the sheriff's detective wasn't expecting the charges to go through pre-trial.

I agree, the police shouldn't have gotten involved.

I think where we differ is that you seem to think that once the police were called, it's a sensible thing for the police to then to say 'oh we're police, we have to respond to every request with action, let's choose a tool, ah here it is, let's use the scariest one we can get away with and then not go through with it, perhaps partially because of public pressure, that should solve it while not screwing over the kid for life'.

Whereas I'd say, it's a sensible thing for the police to say 'Alright so, the kid changed the wallpaper on a computer? Sir, this is not a police matter, I trust the school and parents are equipped to deal with this kid, goodbye'. Or something to that effect.

I think that is a fair view to have actually. Its a good assessment of the situation.

We still have our differences in opinion, but I think I can trust your statement as factually correct at least.

In general, the police have the power to arrest people. Doing so with the notion that the person is an immediate danger to others or a participant in a crime is not intimidation. So this is a tool that they have that is not based on a threat or based on intimidation.

There is nothing merciful about exercising their power in a situation where it should not be exercised.

> There is nothing merciful about exercising their power in a situation where it should not be exercised.

I think they are doing a fine job exercising their power with restraint

Once again, they were planning to drop the charges to something smaller through the pre-trial process.

Yes, I remember that you are perfectly fine with them planning on intimidating the kid. The intimidation is what I objected to in my first comment in this thread. Anyway, it's fine if we disagree.

I think the bigger takeaway is that the law as it is is much too broad. Certainly if this kid is a repeat offender for this there should be consequences for him, but a felony? If this really is as simple as using a known password then I think some amount of responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the school. Beyond that, if nothing truly crime-worthy was done, say, stealing private information, changing grades, etc., then it seems like this should be a matter handled by the school administration rather than the state.

"He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said."

They're scaring the kid by charging him with a felony. Then the felony charge disappears during a pre-trial intervention, and the kid hopefully learns a little bit of respect afterwards.

> stealing private information

[Redacted] said that on the morning in question, he accessed the computer that stored the FCAT files and, realizing that computer didn't have a camera, found another.

He was trying to spy on the other kids using the school cameras. Since his teacher's computer didn't have access to the cameras, he left a prank instead, and then looked for another computer.

Thanks for bringing reason to the commentary. I/we often lambaste media for not highlighting the other side, or being reasonable, but even though this story comes from "our side" they have left out enough information to try and cultivate outrage. This tactic is abhorrent from any publication.

Its an EFF publication. The EFF is a lobby group specifically catered towards our opinion.

The EFF is doing their job. The important part is to recognize that bias is part of their job. And just as the EFF does a good job at recognizing "hacker culture" and representing us in the press, we have to look at other news sources to get the full picture.

"they're not talking about the fact that he committed this crime previously,"

You've got to wonder if he used the same password both times. If he did then it strikes me that the teachers and school that should be raked over the coals for not putting even the most basic safegards in place to protect all that confidential data on the laptop -especially after already being shown up about it.

"The teacher’s computer reportedly had sensitive encrypted information related to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)." -The other thing jumping to mind is that if the sensitive data was all properly encrypted, then even with intent, the student wouldn't have been able to view or tamper with it.

Edit: grammar; as->that

Victim Blaming fallacy. Do I need to go further?

> Do I need to go further?

Yes, I think you do. AstroDust's reply is worth bearing in mind too [1].

If you're going to store confidential information (which is hard to avoid being a school) then you should be responsible for securing it adequately. This seems more than possible using current technology and only a small amount of education for staff.

When your security has been shown _repeatedly_ to be inadequate to protect against _children_ then I really don't think the school is taking their responsibilities seriously.

Edit: Lets spin this another way. I keep all the cleaning and other dangerous chemicals in a cupboard. If the lock is broken and a child manages to hurt themselves, then it doesn't really matter if the cupboard is out-of-bounds; I've still neglected my duty of care and I'm going to get into trouble. If months later I've still not bothered fixing the lock and another child gets hurt, then the only person responsible should be me.

Children are expected to break the rules and do silly things, whether they expect it to end badly or not; this is why we classify them as children and usually expect them to need supervision.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9408704

Victim blaming is when someone, through no fault of their own, suffers harm.

In this case a reckless disregard for proper security practices was endangering students.

> Victim blaming occurs when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them.

Teacher had his computer improperly accessed by a student. The student did the wrong (granted, it is a minor wrong), and yet you are blaming the teachers.

You are victim blaming. Period.

The teacher is responsible for picking a secure password, just as they're responsible for a number of other things.

They failed in their responsibility. They are not 100% to blame here, but they are not a "victim" like you paint them to be.

> They failed in their responsibility. They are not 100% to blame here, but they are not a "victim" like you paint them to be.

It is a woman's responsibility to dress appropriately in public. She failed in her responsibility and therefore was sexually assaulted.

Dude, you're totally victim blaming. Victims of a crime, however minor, are NOT responsible for the actions of others.

You're stretching what I'm saying totally out of proportion here.

A woman is not responsible for dressing modestly.

A teacher is absolutely responsible for keeping private materials, such as grades, secured according to reasonable practices.

If I leave a bike unlocked in a public place, I can expect it'll get stolen. Although I'm the "victim" here, I'm also partially responsible for failing to secure it properly.

If I have locked bike stolen, then I'm a victim, I did everything reasonable expected to secure my property.


You are victim blaming! Bikers who leave their bike unlocked do NOT deserve those bikes to be stolen!

They made a mistake. But the criminal remains a criminal. A thief who steals an unlocked bike has committed a crime JUST as heinous as a criminal who steals a locked bike. The level of effort is much lower, but the crime is one and the same.

Similarly, our discussion is with regards to this kid who gained unauthorized access to a computer. Granted, this "unauthorized" access was laughably weak amount of security, but it is still victim blaming to offload the blame from the criminal (ie: the kid).

So someone who ignorantly walks off a cliff is a victim? Someone who was electrocuted by a hairdryer in a bathtub despite knowing the risks? Someone who failed to secure a firearm and was shot by their dog?

People have a certain amount of responsibility they are expected to assume. If they fail in this responsibility they may end up victims but they are not entirely blameless. I'm not saying they have to lead flawless lives or take every precaution imaginable, but failing to apply basic common sense introduces some degree of blame.

You seem to think that victims are always, without exception, innocent of the events that lead up to their situation. It would be victim blaming if they had taken reasonable precautions. They didn't. You're victim sainting here.

I'm not suggesting the kid is without blame, but they're not 100% at fault either. A more secure password, which is to be expected when dealing with sensitive data, would have avoided all of this. Then the student would have had to actually hack the account.

I also find it laughable that changing wallpaper makes someone a victim. Can we reserve that term for when actual harm was caused?

If anything this kid has ended up the victim in all of this. A felony is a tough thing to shake.

> If anything this kid has ended up the victim in all of this. A felony is a tough thing to shake.

Good thing this kid doesn't have a felony on his record. He has a felony charge, one that the Police were planning to drop pre-trial. That is a very different thing.

> I also find it laughable that changing wallpaper makes someone a victim. Can we reserve that term for when actual harm was caused?

Okay then, first you recognize that the kid's permanent record wasn't harmed by the police. Then I'll recognize that the teacher wasn't harmed either. The majority of damage to this kid's reputation was done by the newspaper when they wantonly published the kid's name.

If you've found said written report it would be helpful to link to it.

Even so:

> he committed this crime previously

What, the egregious crime of changing a background image? God knows what I would have been charged for as a kid, given the number of times I messed with a friend's computer to play pranks. A slap on the wrist, and then maybe detention and some slow escalation should perhaps be appropriate. Felony charges are an absurd reaction.

> What, the egregious crime of changing a background image?

Well... lets take a look, shall we?

> [redacted] said that on the morning in question, he accessed the computer that stored the FCAT files and, realizing that computer didn't have a camera, found another.

> "So I logged out of that computer and logged into a different one and I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him," [redacted] said.

The kid was using his unauthorized access to computer systems to find the school cameras so that he could spy on his classmates.

You definitely misunderstood that. He was looking for a computer with a webcam.

A friend of mine found all the social security numbers for every student with free and reduced lunch in our school's network, without ever touching his keyboard.

Just by clicking.

How many people posting on HN have not, at several times in their lives, in some way used computer systems in an "unauthorized" way?

How many people on HN have been caught using a computer system in an "unauthorized" way, and then decided to do it again less than a few months later?

Remember, this kid is a repeat offender. He got caught, officially, at least once by the Police. We don't know how many times his teachers caught him before putting something onto his permanent record either.


EDIT: "Green was released on Wednesday from Land O'Lakes Detention Center into the custody of his mother. He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said."

The Sheriff Detective doesn't even expect this kid to have any serious harm on his record. They're trying to scare the kid without really putting anything on his record.

Unfortunately, the freaking newspapers are releasing this guy's name. What the flying *!@#! guys? Does not Florida have laws against releasing the names of 14-year old minors?

Now that I look back on it, I've done this numerous times. If I was born 5-10 years later, I would probably be in jail.

When I was in elementary school, I inputted an expletive into the school's hangman game - I thought it was amusing. The school staff did not.

In middle school, I wrote a simple basic program that would run in the background and speak() interesting phrases throughout the day.

In middle/high school I received detention for goofing off when I was supposed to be researching in the library. I was using Google.com - which the staff had never heard of.

When we first had internet at home, I sent a fake email to my parents from billclinton@whitehouse.gov.

On an internship, I remotely changed the wallpaper of a coworkers PC (we played pranks on each other all the time). But I accidentally targeted a machine in our conference room which was being used by a high ranking military officer...

In college, I attempted to add the school president as a friend on thefacebook.com, since many users at the time had fake accounts as friends like George Bush, Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc. But I needed a valid college email to signup. So I created a forwarding email alias: hisname@myschool.edu but for some reason I could not receive email using that alias so I went to sleep. I spent the following couple of days being interrogated by the police and various school officials. I didn't find out until some point later, but apparently this was the school president's actual forwarding email address and due to some bug in the school mail system, I registered a dup account which made all his incoming emails bounce. But I was treated as a hacker, threatened with being expelled and charged with a two-page list of crimes such as identity theft, unauthorized access, etc. I got off with being put on school probation, community service, and writing some papers.

It's a setting on a computer. Get a grip. This is pure insanity.

> [redacted] said that on the morning in question, he accessed the computer that stored the FCAT files and, realizing that computer didn't have a camera, found another.

> "So I logged out of that computer and logged into a different one and I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him," [redacted] said.

Erm... the kid was looking for cameras so that he'd spy on his classmates using administrative privileges.

BTW: The real problem here... is that the press is extremely dumb how they're handling this. I shouldn't be able to find this information... the press should have editorial discretion to protect this kid from this sort of analysis I'm doing. It's not right to take apart an 8th-grader's argument like this... but I think I have to to prove a point to yall.

I'm gonna redact his name at least, unlike the press.

It reads like he put a picturr of his own butt on the computer, not spy on anyone

Being a repeat offender doesn't really change whether something should be charged as a felony or not, though.

Why not?

A charge that was planned to be dropped pretrial is not exactly that big of a deal.

Criminal charges should be a very serious undertaking. If they are planned to be dropped, it's a failure of the justice system to make them in the first place.

Criminal charges, like everything else in this world, is a tool. A tool that police have.

The tool can either be used correctly or incorrectly. I think as long as those officers weren't going to go through with the charges (which it seems to be the case), their use was correct.

I don't think 'fake' charges should be a tool.

They contribute to the problem with plea deals, too.

The most severe penalty that should attach to repeated unauthorized access of a school computer is expulsion. And that should take a while.

If there was proof the kid was doing other harm using those computers, maybe that would be something where the legal system should get involved (depends on the harm), but the unauthorized access itself should stay a school matter.

> The kid's lawyer likely contacted the eff / press to make the officer back off a bit. In the end, the kid is going to get off with a slap on the wrist and a bit of disdain for the officers of this country.

I think this is both appropriate and what will happen. If the kid is a repeat offender, it's time to bring out the justice system and hit him with the stick. Charging him with a felony is pretty ridiculous, but odds are that it's going to be pled down to a misdemeanor, which will result in a couple months of probation and some community service. In addition, a misdemeanor can be sealed once he turns 18, which means that he won't ruin his life over something as stupid as this.

If he offends again, fuck him.

The Sheriff's Detective actually expects him to be let go through pretrial intervention.

"Green was released on Wednesday from Land O'Lakes Detention Center into the custody of his mother. He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said."

The real crime is the freaking newspapers that are publishing the kid's name. THERE'S A REASON WHY ITS LOOKED DOWN UPON YOU IDIOTS.

This would have been a scare tactic by police to show the kid that he's in serious trouble. They would have let him go pretrial, put minor marks on his junivile record which would have been wiped away. Now his name is all over the freaking internet thanks to the illegitimate press who don't understand how this system is supposed to work.

Thanks press for &@#$ing this kid over in his ass.

Yeah, having your name dragged through the mud before you even enter high school isn't going to help your employment prospects later in life.

I dunno, the employers seem to like people who don't tale stupid for an answer.

And maybe a kid who won't sit down for buklshit will become an entrleneur.

I'd be more concerned with the fact the EFF press release wilfully ignored the kid's apparent record of multiple similar offences and escalating punishments than the fact that it highlighted a statement the officer really shouldn't have made.

Omitting obviously relevant details about the nature of the alleged offences risks undermining the credibility of future EFF press releases in defence of genuinely inexplicably arrested people, and the problem is there's a pattern developing here: a couple of days ago an EFF press release was issued about a security consultant who "tweeted about airplane network security". From the EFF's press release, you'd have thought he was a persecuted whistleblower, but he instead turned out to be an idiot who tweeted the network security equivalent of a bomb threat.

I'm not convinced that felony charges guilty of nondestructive pranks on teachers' computers are appropriate, but I'm also not convinced that accounts which omit the main reason why charges were brought particularly serve the cause of fighting against judicial overreach. You can cry wolf too many times.

Or kids in chemistry classes learning to master chemical reactions... or shop class learning to build combustion engines to contain explosions...

Who knows what anyone might do... ever. May as well lock us all up now for what we might do based on our "skills."

In Eastern Europe there are special highschools that accent on STEM. Lets say that for the stuff we did when growing up back then would make a Breaking Bad fan go - dude, that is too far.

I think that kids will be kids ...

I gave up on Breaking Bad at Episode 3 for that exact reason. "Dude, that is too far." lol. I agree with your sentiment that kids will be kids, but they also need to be kept in check from time to time so that they don't cause a nuisance of themselves to the rest of society.

And that is why we should teach them how to handle dangerous stuff responsibly, and not treat them as criminals for every infraction.

The lesson from that sentence is that if you're first going to log into someone elses computer, you might as well make sure to take maximum advantage, given that the police appears to want to assume you have done so anyway if you get caught.

Exactly. This is a known variable in criminology. If you have very harsh punishment for low-end offenses, then punishment ceases to be a tool for deterrence.

For example, if you get caughtt with a bag of hand grenades and you get 3 years for possession of dangerous unregistered weaponry, alright, you may want to surrender at that point and take the 3y.

But if you get life in jail for that, you might as well try to kill the cop and flee, because either way, you're getting life in jail. (ignoring places with the death sentence in this hypothetical example).

Of course there are still other reasons to just surrender, e.g. morals, reputation, religious fear etc. But purely deterrence of punishment is gone.

I don't think it's terribly relevant in this case, but yeah in general, too harsh crimes for small offenses can actually lead a rational thinker to maximize instead of minimize additional crimes.

This is exactly why the "Three Strikes" rule is extremely dangerous.

It turns a routine traffic stop into a life-or-death situation for people.

Not so fast.

Depends if them saying "who knows what he might have done" gets e.g. like 80% more harsh penantly, and them saying "look all this maximum thing he indeed done" leads to a 100% harsher penalty.

No this is not justice, this and every other zero tolerance policy removes discretion and reasonableness from justice. It's a way not to be held accountable for your actions - It's a variation of "just following orders"

This isn't following orders, it's much much worse. All the "zero tolerance" nonsense has been instituted because of a widespread perception of corruption - when there was discretion the popular kids used to get let off lightly, and the unpopular ones would have the book thrown at them. That doesn't look anything like justice or equitable, can't have that.

Nowadays, with zero-tolerance, do you really think the book is thrown at everyone? You'd think anything the "good kids" do is completely swept under the rug. The fact that the fellow who put up the dick pics on the teacher's computer was suspended last year for a few days confirms the theory.

This isn't a zero tolerance problem. The charging was under the discretion of the cops, which means discretion was applied and abused.

The basic issue here is that computer crime laws are terminally broken.

What would be the punishment had the teenager placed a magazine on his teacher's desk?

This is an identical scenario, but with computers. The 'access' argument is bunk. He could have opened drawers on the desk, he could have photocopied everything in those drawers. But he did not.

The same problems crop up all over. Copyright infringement carrying harsher punishment than actual theft of a physical object, for example.

The most amazing thing is that no one along the chain of escalation this must have passed (e.g. the teacher, the vice principal, the superintendent, the officer that arrived for the call, the sheriff, the prosecutor) - took a minute to stop and think:

"wait is this really the right way to go about handling this?"

Rarely is that done - everyone in the chain thinks "It's probably not serious, but I'd better pass it up to the next level just in case." No one is willing to take that responsibility for making the decision, so it gets escalated.

Some thing happened in the UK with the "Twitter Joke Trial":



At the start of my accounting class, we had to pass around a bootable floppy disk that had the software on it. The teacher would talk to us about the day, while we passed the disk, student to student.


Then, one day, the computers all started to make frog noises. Turns out, someone put a TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program on the disk, and we had all just run it on our computers.

"Ribbit ribbit!"

The frequency of the noises kept increasing, both as more computers came online, and as the program increased the rate.

"Ribbit ribbit ribbit!"

Today, would the kid who did it be thrown in jail?

I think we need a lot more "Kids will be kids" and a lot less "Tough on crime" with this stuff.

"Ribbit ribbit ribbit ribbit!"

When I was in the 7th grade, I actually hacked a bunch of websites and never got caught. It's been long enough now for the statute of limitations to shield me from prosecution on this point, but I won't go into specifics.

I would like to caution people from implying that an eight grader is incapable of causing havoc on a computer system. The old WinXP at.exe privilege escalation vulnerability gave me SYSTEM access on every computer I visited at school. One of my friends in high school, I recently learned, hacked the domain controller and read the Principal's emails.

Schools are known for their terrible security. Mildly intelligent kids can and will outsmart the system.

In high school, one of my close friends went to a trade school where everything was locked down with a product called Deep Freeze which reset every computer after hours to a snapshot of the OS. The teacher was kind of laid back and said, "I don't care what you do, just don't break Deep Freeze." My friend broke Deep Freeze so he could change the desktop for one student he disliked to tubgirl every morning. Nothing ever happened to him. He was never even reported for disciplinary action.

Then he put a piece of scotch tape on the bottom of another student's mouse, as a prank, and got expelled for vandalism.

This case with the middle schooler reminds me of what happened to my friend: A wholly inappropriate response to basic juvenile mischief.

It also reminds me of what happened to me: I was forced to pay over $9000 in restitution to a security company that had been neglecting to do its job for years, because I forced them to do their job for once. They called it "damages".

This kid does not need to face a felony. Anyone with an ounce of human compassion can see that.

Breaking Deep Freeze was how I spent most of my time in computer classes in high school. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I'm now I'm a productive member of society instead of rotting in a prison.

So too is my friend. I think the majority of people who would have hacked the planet in their youth become productive members of society in absence of law enforcement intervention.

At least, based on the people I know. :)

I can't imagine being a kid in school now. I imagine I'd have had a bevy of felonies. My last 3 years of grade school I was suspended and banned from the computers at some point during the year for various accusations of "hacking."

Not a problem in high school since I worked for the school. It worked out much better for the school.

I've always thought that the biggest unfairness in US computer law is that you're judged for what you could have done and not what you did. I think it's largely because those who made these laws where told how dangerous computers are and they couldn't imagine, as a factor of their age, why anyone would do something like this out of curiosity. So you ended up with every computer system being protected and a derogation of freedom at a scale unimaginable in the physical world. The double standard of course becomes very apparent when there's no equal punishment for the keeper of the computer system if a third-party has their data compromised as a result of mismanagement.

Obviously the prosecution of this kid is ridiculous.

That said, I don't get all the victim-blaming around hacking. One of the basic bits of consensus in our justice system is that victims don't have an obligation to make it difficult for criminals to perpetuate their crimes. Whether the school's security here was weak or strong is irrelevant.

1- accessing someone's computer is like accessing someone's home - checked 2- unauthorized access of a computer system is a crime - checked 3- the kid should be taught a lesson - checked

But... do u have to destroy his future for it? A 14 years old kid should drag a fellony with him till he graduates from university, because he decided to prank his teacher? That if he's allowed access to a university with such a record.

I thought law and punishment's roles are to reform and teach. (slapping myself... wake up!)

Until he graduates from university?

Universities often exclude felons (or at least, most felons) from admittance. The negotiating position of the applicant is one of appealing their standard policy of exclusion on special grounds, rather than competing with other entrants.

This is absolutely crazy.

A common 'prank' in my high school was going around the computer labs changing all of the desktop background or renaming folders/changing their icons to mess with people. Immature: very. Criminal: obviously not.

I guess it's the password part that constitutes the hacking here but if the password was widely known and therefore he didn't 'brute force' it via guessing (it's unclear from the article) is it still hacking? I guess it depends how he came into 'possession' of the password. If someone gives you a key to their house and you use it I wouldn't classify it as breaking in, but if they key it left outside the door and you use it to enter without permission that would be.

Either way these are just technicalities and the fact that a school even got law enforcement involved in this is utterly ridiculous.

>Criminal: obviously not. //


>but if they [left a key] outside the door and you use it to enter without permission that would be [breaking in]. //

Why is trespass itself not harm in the first case but is harmful in the second? [Incidentally if you use a key you don't 'break in'].

As the law stands in UK I gather the first is a tort (unless you add in damage or intimidation or something else) and the second is a crime (under the Computer Misuse Act 1990).

They are similar. On discovering both there is a real cost involved, change password/lock and in the first case pay for the time needed to sanitise, revert any changes.

Most comments focus on whether that should be illegal, what the legal consequences should be, etc.

These deserve a big discussion, all right, but I think it should be a different discussion. Because law should not be a replacement for better/friendlier/flexible channels of conduct, rather than a last resort when we do not think we have an other way to protect ourselves. I don't see how this could have been the case with the teacher.

- He could discipline the student in many different ways, using his own authority

- He could have treated the prank indifferently, thus showing that it failed its purpose to impress him and provoke a reaction

- He could silently take practical measures to protect the privacy of the data on the laptop, which, in the very end, was all that mattered

Getting Justice involved is a real ass move imo.

I remember friends and I doing similar pranks while in high school ~15 years ago - it annoyed the computer administrators, but it was generally regarded as benign. We were considered some of the best behaved kids in the school district too (didn't get in trouble, went to class, did our schoolwork, etc.) - charging a kid a felony for this harmless act is ridiculous, there is no reason to punish the kid for something like this period.

When I was in school, the network administrator framed me for "slowing down the Mac network" using "AOL punters and Visual Basic proggies", because I had a personal website that linked to said Windows AOL tools. He got me kicked out and had "hacking" put as the reason on my permanent record.

When I went to subsequent schools, they would hold me accountable for any computer problems or suspicious activity as I had been "guilty of hacking" at a prior school. My attempts to clean their systems of 0-day computer viruses and fix broken proxy settings on browsers got me banned from the school's libraries.

Teenagers are not adults, and don't understand the monumentally irrational fears and corrupt politics that drive adults - especially in academia. They also have no way to defend themselves and are often victimized by adults, and often have no idea that adults can literally throw the book at them for no reason whatsoever (I certainly had no idea that kind of thing could/would happen).

Hopefully somebody steps up and forces the government to do the humane thing here and not fuck a poor kid's life over to gain political points and 'send a message'.

Had this been the method of dealing with such pranks when I was in school, I would have a very long rap sheet. Generally my teachers were fine with it because they knew I had done it and they knew I could fix it. They often asked me to troubleshoot computer problems for them anyway.

The worst reaction I ever elicited was when walked into my history teacher's unlocked classroom during my study hall period and changed the DOS prompt on her floppy-boot-only PS/2 model 25 to read "Please command me, oh benevolent [teachername]!" rather than "A>".

Generally she was pretty even keeled about what I considered equivalent pranks that didn't involve a computer, such as writing a silly message on the whiteboard behind a drawn-down map or something. So I was very surprised when she totally freaked out and all the teachers stopped letting students screw around on their PCs during slow class periods. Oooops, no more Scorched Earth during Calculus...

Forgive my ignorance about American law but what does "charging" mean in the context of "justice" in America? Isn't charging just the act of acknowledging the complaint of one of the parties involved? Is justice even relevant here?

Are the police allowed to act on charges and arrest individuals? Or is this just a complaint?

> Are the police allowed to act on charges and arrest individuals?

Yes. Although the arrest can happen before the charge, typically a judge will issue an arrest warrant as soon as the charges are filed.

And given the >90% conviction success rate in the USA (at least in federal cases), it's a pretty good bet any charges filed will stick if the prosecutor wants them to.

Being charged with a crime is a formal accusation from the government, and you will be arrested. You may then post bail as set by a judge, if they allow it, and remain free for the duration of your trial. If you can't post bail, you stay in jail through the trial. If found guilty, you go to prison.

Based on the way you wrote this I get the understanding that the US system differentiates between jail and prison? In that case what's the difference?

There are a lot of individual circumstances, but generally:

Prison is where people who are convicted of felonies (crimes worthy of >1 year in custodial sentence) are sent. Jails are where people awaiting trial, or convicted of misdemeanors (crimes worthy of <1 year in custodial sentence) are sent.

Jails are run by counties or cities, and are for persons awaiting trial (i.e. not been convicted) or persons found guilty and serving short sentences.

Prisons are run by a state or by the Federal government, and are for holding persons who have been convicted of a crime and sentanced to a longer term.

So, the boy got into the teacher's computer. Hmm .... Time to send the cops after all of the NSA, right? Or, since the NSA has shown all the world that no computers are private, the boy didn't get into anything private and did hundreds of millions of times less than the NSA has been doing for a long time.

I was a sophomore in 99. I was suspended for 3 days for "hacking" our keyboarding software. It was an old blue-screen'd DOS application. My friend and I figured out that F10 (or something) created a new folder. I made at least two, named "school grades" and "top porn stars" (Hey, I was a teenager). My friend did the same on his, but I think his was just "school grades" and "porn". They claimed that we were trying to alter our grades with those folders. We were A/B students, so that didn't really pan out.

Getting in trouble for it wasn't really a deterrent, but then again, I wasn't arrested. It probably would have stopped me from ever fiddling with a machine if I had been.

I was in high school some time after you. I guess the change had already taken place because when I figured out how to get into the school's internal file structure I decided the risk wasn't worth exploring. I already had to fight the school admin to take an AP class as an underclassman (it is shameful that this was something that had to be fought over).

Question - when I was 15, I did an arp poisoning attack on our schools network, redirecting all traffic through mine(borrowed) laptop. I've started my own SSL server and redirected all traffic to and from Ebay through it, decrypting it - I knew my IT teacher was on Ebay 99% of the time, so soon enough I got his password. Then I went to him and explained what I have done - he actually gave me a highest grade for the effort and was seriously impressed(also muttered to himself that he shouldn't have accepted that invalid SSL cert...).

What would have happened to me if I did this in US? Guantanamo?

It's sad to see HN, one of the most educated communities online, fall for an obviously link-bait article. If what you read makes you wonder how a multitude of people could possibly behave in a moronic way, instead of grabbing your pitch fork, ask yourself if there could be another side to the story (which there seems to be, if you read a few decent comments in that thread).

As much as I love the EFF, they have changed their communication style a few months ago, to the point where I find them no better than spam. Sad. I hope they stop eventually and revert to being reliable and trustworthy again.

Both sides are spinning the story, but it does seem like the EFF is fighting the good fight here:

"The computer in question also had encrypted 2014 FCAT questions stored on it"

Of course, this is not relevant as the files were not tampered with (also mentioned in the article), however it trumps up the perceived seriousness of the so-called "cybercrime". It's link-bait from the Sherrif's department.

"Green had previously received a three-day suspension for accessing the system inappropriately."

More link bait as other students got in trouble as well. The students frequently used the same administrative account to screen-share with their friends. More alarming is that the school didn't do anything about this the first time around. Eg. move the encrypted files to a different account / network, or lock things down. But again, this had nothing to do with encrypted files.

"Green was released on Wednesday from Land O'Lakes Detention Center into the custody of his mother. He'll likely be granted pretrial intervention by a judge, sheriff's detective Anthony Bossone said."

So they don't have a case (changing a desktop background is not gonna fly as a cybercrime with a jury, no matter how many times you do it), or have decided that they've wasted enough taxpayer dollars trying to scare future "hackers" straight. It's ridiculous we're even talking about this - that it got this far.

The teens mother probably offers the most level heaved observation of the situation:

"The teen's mother, Eileen Foster, said she understands her son did something wrong, but doesn't think he needed to be arrested. Also, she said, it shouldn't have been so easy for students to access the system."

There is a good fight in that story somewhere, but my point is that you shouldn't rush to judgment when you are hearing one clearly-biased side. There was some great coverage on NPR recently of 'Publicly Shamed', very relevant: http://www.npr.org/2015/03/31/396413638/publicly-shamed-who-...

Back to the story. What I'd really like to hear from the mother is what she told her kid after he was suspended for 3 days. Anything along the lines of "don't do it again?". This story just sounds like one of those cases where you'd need to know all the players pretty well to understand what really happened. I can't tell the difference between a teenager who just won't listen and a teacher who can't take a joke and overreacts.

I really don't think we (the public) need to involve ourselves in her parenting decisions. I just can't understand what argument you're making.

Where is this thread that has "decent comments" justifying the police response?

Trying to remain objective here but you're not exactly convincing me that some internet comments change the story's narrative in any way.

Can't this student just text the prosecutors naked pictures of themselves and get them charged as sex offenders?

Honestly I say if you're going to go down for some stupid law, might as well abuse the stupid laws in your favor.

> Can't this student just text the prosecutors naked pictures of themselves and get them charged as sex offenders?

No. Criminal charges aren't things that happen automatically based on external facts (even if the proposed action includes facts which in some cases might be parallel to those that have supported charges against the recipients), they are things that human beings -- specifically, prosecutors -- initiate.

Doing the suggested act might result in criminal charges, but almost certainly those would be additional charges for the student, not charges against the prosecutors.

> Honestly I say if you're going to go down for some stupid law, might as well abuse the stupid laws in your favor.

The nature of criminal law is that there are a narrow category of people whose active participation is required for any use/abuse of it, stupid or not.

This strikes me more as extra judicial punishment. The stupid statements from the Sheriff are because the people involved got caught at it. The charges will undoubtedly be thrown out once the punishment is complete.

"Additionally, it has been reported that the school had terrible operational security where weak passwords, teachers entering passwords in front of students, and students regularly using teacher credentials, was prevalent."

Irrelevant. The only important question here is whether the consequences of a felony match the crime committed. On the face of it, they do not, but there is not enough information presented to evaluate that. (Would the EFF's answer change if the student were part of a group committing long-term sexual harassment? (Maybe not. I dunno.))

The basic issue here is that computer crime laws are terminally broken.

What would be the punishment had the teenager placed a magazine on his teacher's desk?

This is an identical scenario, but with computers. The 'access' argument is bunk. He could have opened drawers on the desk, he could have photocopied everything in those drawers. But he did not.

The same problems crop up all over. Copyright infringement carrying harsher punishment than actual theft of a physical object, for example.

This case reminds me of a similar case that took place two years ago in Florida in the county right next to where this incident took place. We have removed "common sense" from society and replaced it with zero tolerance laws.


Another way to look at this is as a reveal on just how shoddy IT security is in our schools. I'm guessing that well-known password would have also gotten the kid halfway or more to changing grades in the Student Information System. This is an opportunity to improve policy and procedures to protect actually sensitive data. They ought to be thanking the kid.

They need to have a computer forensics investigator check the teacher's computer. If there really is no evidence of tampering beyond prank level then either that's all the student did or they knew how to cover their tracks; in either case, no evidence should translate to leniency in the charge IMHO.

We have trespass laws, but somehow when you trespass on someone's computer you can get thrown in prison for decades. This attitude towards computer crime vs any other crime will not change unless we the tech community do something about.

Now back to my upvoting...

>unless we the tech community do something about //

Do you think there's anything that can be done? You can petition your representative (I'm in the UK, so that's an MP) but the chance of computer crime ever being an issue that's relevant to them are practically non-existent. It's not an issue that will win/lose votes significantly.

This seems to be a problem with representative democracy that only the major areas of focus can ever really get representation - do you vote for the party that's moving in the right direction on health and gets computer crime wrong?

That's a problem caused by voting on people, instead of voting on issues.

OK, but that's how representative democracy works isn't it. How do we overhaul that, main parties aren't going to move towards an issue based democratic process because that's ceding power to the demos.

> OK, but that's how representative democracy works isn't it.

No, representative democracy is largely issue-based and less personality-based in many regimes, particularly parliamentary systems with electoral systems which produce roughly proportional results while supporting multiple ( significantly more than 2) viable parties.

The US combination of a presidential (or, for states, gubernatorial, which amounts to the same thing) rather than parliamentary system and an electoral system which has poor proportionality and strongly favors duopoly (the latter more significantly than the former, though both are factors) creates a weak party system with weak issue focus on elections based on personalities and identity politics more than issues at both state and federal levels.

Because of the federal nature of the US system and the distribution of much power over even federal elections to the individual states, and the fact that many states feature citizen initiative processes, this could be radically changed for state government in many states without direct support from existing elected politicians, and could also be changed to a limited extent for federal elections without elected politician involvement.

>representative democracy is largely issue-based and less personality-based in many regimes //

Could you give examples please?

>many states feature citizen initiative processes //

I'm not from the USA, what do you mean by this? There is some system to get laws passed or governmental processes altered that bypasses representatives? If that's the case then doesn't it prove my point, that the part of the system that's a representative democracy doesn't allow the populous to address issues atomically.

For me in the UK I've a choice of maybe 8 parties. But ultimately it comes down to one or two issues - do you cut the NHS [health], do you keep Trident nuclear missiles, do you address income gaps in favour of the poor, ... suppose you say yes/yes/no and only the We-Are-Evil party is doing that then if they get in to power you're largely stuck with their predetermined answers for all other issues until the next general election (5 years). Indeed local elections become proxies in some cases for addressing issues, but the party whose candidate is elected need not vote with that candidate, nor uphold a "promise" they give prior to that election.

As I see it the electorate is left to sit on their hands most of the time. Then at election times we get the hard sell with psychological manipulation, character assassination, personality cult, anything to avoid presenting genuine working solutions to issues the electorate wants to address.

As far as I know, yes, that's how representative democracy works. There are some ideas around about how to make a subject-restricted representative democracy (but I don't really think that would work).

I have no idea how to change from one system to the other (although powerful people not ceding power to the demos is not a new problem). I'm also not completely sure that it's a better system (but I suspect it is). I was only pointing that the problem was caused by that, and won't get fixed in a representative system.

Even though the kid probably won't get a felony it is absurd that the government can even use that bargaining chip in this scenario to gain leverage. This is the same kind of garbage they used against Swartz.

It sounds more like they're doubling down trying to make this "hacker" seem more malicious than he was to draw attention away from the fact that their security measures are pretty atrocious.

This is one of the reasons I'm considering private school for my kid: parents are customers and (hopefully) get treated better than this.

A teenager picks up a gun. Could they be arrested for assault because "who knows what this teenager might have done"?

This makes me fear that we are going to make a generation of people too afraid to screw around on computers.

The school and the cops should just have refused to make what the boy did a police or legal matter.

Let's have a US information technology venture partner with their "deep domain knowledge" take up my bet on finding the typo in my paper!

Come on VCs! Good information technology entrepreneurs are eager for VCs who can actually understand the work and play a constructive role in the future of the company!

So, "deep domain knowledge" VCs: Show us what you've got! Let's see your "deep" abilities in information technology!

They be like : "Let's get'em young. Don't want no trouble in future".

Welcome to the USA.

"The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children."

~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lunatics! These people need help.

The usa is realizing the sad pov that people are robots.

It is becoming the first, past-human society. There are "entities". Powerful entities. And some other things, we don't care about.

It is the first to realize in a social context, the halting problem. That imperfect rules imposed on an extremely huge social canvas, are not Turing complete. The limits of discreet rules. Which in a social canvas, has also to include in the description, "harsh", "absolute", "cold blooded", etc.

In societies where you still have humans running the show, you don't kill -9 kids.

Yes, "I" (for some values of "I"), am the most important thing in the world ever, "I" am the law, and "I" am a powerful entity, but show some "dignity", "humanity", "judgment", and "honesty" about what we have been in the past ourselves.

Leave it to Florida...

National organisation/institution?

Been to Florida many times. It has always failed to impress overall. Art deco in Miami Beach is cool though, as is NASA/Cape Canaveral. Fondness for EPCOT center. And Key West.

OK Florida isn't that terrible. Some of the people, though...

Good to see Florida is determined to remain a national joke.

Yes because no other state in the US has ever had police or sheriffs do crazy shit.

It's just Florida..and next time it'll just be Colorado and the time after that just Montana.

Isn't this akin to charging a teen with murder that entered a teachers house and swapped out framed family photographs with men kissing using a key known to be hidden under a planter?

It's probably not even that ridiculous since the computer was, I assume, school property and not personal property.

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