By Lester Haines
10th August 2005
US authorites are preparing to throw the book at 13 high school kids
for "computer trespass" after the Dirty Baker's Dozen - aka the
Kutztown 13 - bypassed school computer security measures to indulge in
an orgy of net surfing and online chat.
The Pennsylvania perps face a 24 August meeting with the beak in the
rather agreeably named Berks County juvenile court charged with
computer trespass - an "offense state law defines as altering computer
data, programs or software without permission" as AP explains. The
possible punishments if they are found guilty include juvenile
detention, probation and community service, although mercifully it
appears that the prosecution will not be pushing for them to meet Ol'
Which is surprising, since the list of outrages perpetrated by the
gang makes chilling reading indeed.
It all began last Autumn when the education authority supplied around
600 Apple iBook laptops to students at the high school. Naturally,
they came complete with net-access-limiting filtering programme, and
snooping software allowing the powers that be to see just what their
charges were up to.
The administrators had not, however, reckoned on the sheer
determination and machiavellian cunning of the students. They quickly
found the admin password allowing unrestricted internet access - not
by a keystoke logging black op or extracting it from the IT manager at
the point of a gun - but rather because it was taped to the back of
Unsurprisingly, the miscreants immediately ran amok online, surfing
with impunity and indulging in that most forbidden of fruits - iChat.
Naturally, in the same way as youngsters sent to borstal will normally
complete their sentence rather better informed about improved criminal
methodology than rehabilitated back into society, once the Kutztown 13
had access to the wild wild web, they became more sophisticated in
their criminal activities.
Although the admin password on some laptops was changed, the rascals
cracked that using a decryption programme they found on the net. They
also disabled the remote monitoring function and used it to spy on the
administrators' own machines.
Finally, and most disturbingly, AP reports that "at least one student
Hence the 24 August dateline with destiny. The parents of the Kutztown
13 claim that the school has overreacted, and that the kids are being
punished for making monkeys of the system, rather than any serious
One of the criminal masterminds, 15-year-old John Shrawder, reckons a
felony conviction could hurt his future prospects. He told AP: "There
are a lot of adults who go 10 miles over the speed limit or don't come
to a complete stop at a stop sign. They know it's not right, but they
expect a fine, not a felony offense."
Shrawder's uncle John agrees, and has set up a campaigning website to
champion their cause. He said: "As parents, we don't want our kid
breaking in to the Defense Department or stealing credit card numbers.
But downloading iChat and chatting with their friends? They are not
hurting anybody. They're just curious."
That's as maybe. The school's legal representative, Jeffrey Tucker,
insisted: "The students fully knew it was wrong and they kept doing
it. Parents thought we should reward them for being creative. We don't
We're inclined to agree. Older readers will recall that such behaviour
in our day would certainly have attracted a sound thrashing with the
birch and most likely transportation to the antipodes. The problem
with the kids of today is that...
[Editorial note: The remainder of this analysis of the state of modern
youth can be heard later today in the snug of Ye Olde Boy in
Witheringspoonhampton where our correspondent will be found - as ever
- muttering "When I were a lad..." into his foaming flagon of
Thruppleton's light and mild]. =AE
Sept 16-18th, 2005
San Diego, California