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Hacking: Sparks anger among Boca teens

Hacking: Sparks anger among Boca teens
Hacking: Sparks anger among Boca teens 

By Nicol Jenkins and John Johnston
April 26, 2006 

Boca teens feel cheated by fellow teen hackers, the Boca Raton News
has learned.

The most recent example of teen hacking came with the arrest of Jeff
Yorston, an 18-year-old student at West Boca Raton Community High

He was charged with felony computer fraud after police say he used
employee passwords to change his friends' grades, give himself credit
for classes he didn't take and erase suspensions from records.

Police allege Yorston changed eight students' grades over the past two
years, using computer IDs and passwords from four school district

Some local teens expressed anger that someone would try to take the
easy way out while others have "worked hard" to get good grades.  
Others candidly admit admiration and envy of hackers.

"He must be a pretty smart kid. If I was failing and had the skills,
I'd do the same thing," said 18-year-old Teddy Rutledge.

But Michael Langdon thinks hacking is unfair.

"I've been working all semester for my grades and he just changes
his," the 15-year-old said.

Then, he joked, "I hoped he was my friend so he could change my

Opinions Vary

The majority of the Boca teens interviewed by the Boca Raton News said
gossip of changing grades hasn't circulated much around school.

"I've never heard of it. And I would never be able to figure it out
and none of my friends would be able to do it either," said Boca teen
Lydia Rosenfeldt. "I think it's more the computer geeks and kids that
have nothing better to do."

Rosenfeldt, however, thought the hacking job was "pretty impressive."

"If an 18-year-old can hack into the School Board system maybe the
system isn't that up to par," she said.

Fernando Rodriguez, 17, also believes the hacking incident was
"random." "I don't think that 99 percent of the kids are capable of
doing it at all. Most of the students are not smart enough," he said.

Dan Verton, author of The Hacker Diaries: Confessions of Teenage
Hackers [1], says that most younger computer intruders defy

"The common denominator," says Verton, "is that hackers are both very
smart and extremely bored. They're often smarter about computers than
the teachers they're supposed to be learning from. For those teens,
hacking provides a challenge and encourages creative thinking."

Parental Pressure

Some teens that spoke to the Boca Raton News think pressure from
parents to have perfect grades may have been a motivator.  "Going
through the college process is stressful and sometimes parents put a
lot of stress on children," said 18-year-old Danyelle Shapiro.  "One
of the motives could have been that he had a definite in to one of the
colleges, so he didn't have to stress or worry about where he was

On the other hand, Shapiro thinks hacking is wrong.

"I don't think it's right and students don't think it's fair," she
said. "Because when they change their grades, they could be taking my

Boca teens Edison Alexis and Makyra Nunes agree.

"He's just messing up the whole system," Nunes said.

Alexis added, "It could make our grades lower or higher."

Most hackers are motivated by a need for constant stimulation and a
sense of respect from their peers. For many, a "good" hack is one that
gives a thrill of accomplishment and teaches something about the
targeted system.  Teens say, however, a bad hack isn't measured by the
damage it does - it's measured by whether the hacker gets caught - and
a further measure authorities say reflects a situational ethics,
rather than moral view of the world.

Some Signs

Experts offer the following signs for parents:

* A child who asks you to change ISPs might be into more than

* Do you find programs on your computer that you don=92t remember

* New hardware requests sometimes tip off a hacking interest.

* How much time does your child spend using the computer each day?
  Hacking takes a lot of time.

* Does your child use Quake or Linux?? And a child struggling
  academically might be tempted.

John Johnston can be reached at 561-549-0833, or at jjohnston (at); Nicol Jenkins can be reached at njenkins (at) or 561-549-0844.


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