Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Kids, Hacking, and Human Rights

By RadiantMatrix in Op-Ed
Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:21:24 AM EST
Tags: Round Table (all tags)
Round Table

Everyone knows that "hacking", in the popular-definition sense of accessing computers or data that one is not supposed to, is illegal. Debates abound as to the ethics of breaking security, but no one denies the potential for harm when someone compromises security. As a result, there is a public and corporate paranoia about "being hacked", which in turn has lead to tough legislation and even tougher enforcement for even slight compromises.

The concept extends most thoroughly to the school system - after all, better to nip a problem in the bud while the perpetrators are young and can be rehabilitated, right? While the basic premise of that is valid, the definitition of "hacking" as a problem with kids is much more broad than can be applied to adults. And the penalties are disproportionate to the infractions.

School policy toward, and reactions to, what administrators see as "hacking" raises some questions about kids, hacking itself, and the rights that kids [don't] have.

Schools do have a right to be concerned over the security of thier computers and data. After all, students increasingly need access to those resources for classwork, and any interruption in service could hurt many grades. Not to mention that student files (grades, behavior records, etc) are icreasingly kept as part of the same network the students use -- breaching security on these data is a privacy risk and a risk to student data itself.

In response to this risk, schools set out detailed policies and severe consequences for breaches of security. Some schools implement this in terms of rules that cannot be broken. Others have students sign usage agreements that allow officials to deny computer use to offenders. Under either approach, students are often able to be suspended for long periods of time (over a week), or even expelled for "hacking".

There are three intrinsic flaws in the way that these policies are implemented and administered, however. And these flaws lead to violations of the rights of the people that the policies are supposed to protect -- the students.

The first flaw in the system is paranoia. Often children are found guilty of hacking when they are doing nothing that compromises security or interferes with other users' access. In too many schools, just having a DOS box on the screen is enough to accuse a student of hacking. What is the cause of this? Administrators and teachers that do not have even a basic understanding of computers are given the responsibility of enforcing security. Add to this the paranoia instilled in them by the media about "getting hacked" and we have the disaster of enforcement described above.

The second flaw is twofold: penalties are extreme because there is no consideration for the motivation behind an infraction. Suspending someone 10 days for completely destroying the network might be warranted. However, if the motivation was one of curiosity and no damage was caused, lighter penalties need to exist. In addition, the ability to breach security is an asset, not something to be feared -- programs to channel that ability to a productive end are not available.

The third flaw - and perhaps the most important - is that students are treated as something less than adults. Without opening a can of worms about this particular point, I will expand. The rule is that children do not function at the level of adults and so different rules apply. While this may be true, not all children are incapable of functioning as adults, and whether they are or not they are still people and should be treated as such. I have yet to encounter a school that allows a minor to defend him/herself when accused of hacking. Instead, the child is guilty until proven innocent. If these were adults, the community would be outraged, but since they are children it is all too easy to dismiss thier rights.

What does this community think? Is the way we handle "hackers" in schools a problem? Are the basic rights of students being ignored because they are children? Do we need to rethink the way we approach legitimate breaches?

If you answered yes, then how do we begin?


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Minors should be treated
o always like adults 8%
o as adults based on merit 34%
o as citizens, but never as adults 29%
o as less than citizens 3%
o to an ice cream cone 22%
o with Inoshiro? 1%

Votes: 58
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by RadiantMatrix

Display: Sort:
Kids, Hacking, and Human Rights | 39 comments (38 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
I feel your pain... (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by RareHeintz on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:30:25 PM EST

Nice piece, very rational, and I agree with you on most points, but there's one item here that I don't believe to be correct:

If these were adults, the community would be outraged, but since they are children it is all too easy to dismiss thier rights.

Communities, or anyway, the individuals who comprise them, tend to be undereducated, fearful, and xenophobic. "Crimes" (scare quotes intentional) that are not understood by these communities (hacking/cracking, human cloning, etc.) or that break taboos (homosexuality, human cloning, etc.) tend to elicit extreme reactions characterized by a rush to judgement (the guilty-until-proven-innocent syndrome) and a call for harsh penalties.

This, in fact, may be a large part of the problem: Teachers and administrators in many (but not all) cases lack the wherewithal - that is to say, the educators lack the education - to even analyze the problem, and thus resort to vapid, ham-handed solutions that focus on punishment and thought control, rather than developing a comprehensive security policy and an intelligent way to distinguish between one kid's natural curiosity and another's attempt to change his grades.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily

I agree, but... (none / 0) (#2)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:38:04 PM EST

I agree with your assesment of the treatment of the crimes because of the paranoia of the community. The point I was laboring to make in the sentence that you quoted was that the community would not stand for the complete lack of opportunity to defend oneself that exists in the schools.

I really do have a problem with that.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

Still agreeing, but... (3.00 / 1) (#7)
by RareHeintz on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:52:51 PM EST

Well, yes and no. There are plenty of cases where the opportunity to defend oneself is largely illusory. Sometimes this is actually codified in the legal system, as with the outrageous leeway for asset seizure for drug crimes and computer crimes - I mean, try hiring a good lawyer when all your assets are frozen, and all your electronic records are in an evidence locker somewhere, and the prosecutor is dragging his feet during the discovery process.

Secondly, for many crimes an undereducated or simply prejudiced jury will blithely convict people based on the flimsiest evidence. This is exacerbated by the fact that many of the rules around jury selection essentially prohibit anyone on the jury from knowing jack-shit about the case at hand. Both prejudice and technical ignorance show themselves in computer crime cases, but also show themselves in problems interpreting any kind of scientifically complex forensic evidence, and in the distribution of harsh sentences by race.

That said, I agree with your basic point: The Rules(tm) say that someone accused of a crime should be allowed an opportunity for defense, and that is denied here in a case where it may be important.

- B
http://www.bradheintz.com/ - updated kind of daily
[ Parent ]

You make a point, but there's a difference (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:37:16 PM EST

Your point is well taken. However, there are two differences between the examples you cite and what happens in schools.

First, in all your examples a good defense is unavailable, but you still have the opportunity to speak in your defense. Second, there are community action groups in abundance who are seeking to change the problems you cite -- so there is a community response, even if it isn't by the majority.

Suffice it to say I think we're both right. :)

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

I think its an education issue. (4.33 / 3) (#3)
by WinPimp2K on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:39:33 PM EST

No. really.

In my little authoritarian utopia, nobody gets network access until they have taken a course and passed a test. That would include all school system personnel as well as the students. Think of it like Driver's Ed if you would. The course should only take a few hours. The important part of the course (and the test) would be a clear listing of infractions that can get your computer privileges revoked. Nothing vague, like "hacking" will do the trick, the specific activities must be spelled out. (Attempting to access records on the box //ADMIN, using school computers to read the alt.sex newsgroups or visit playboy.com) Of course, the nasty minded administrator might set up a honeypot box... just to see who is stupid enough to try for it.

School computer systems aren't there for the entertainment of script kiddies - they should do that stuff at home. If they want to play l33t h4x0r games, let em join or form a computer club with a faculty advisor. But most importantly keep the technically advanced learning scenarios off the school network.

Oh well thats my binary dime.

I'm not defending the acts (none / 0) (#5)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:47:12 PM EST

I agree that when a student violates security -- whatever thier motives may be -- [s]he should be punished. One of my many objections to the current system is that the punishment doesn't come even close to fitting the infraction: it is usually far too severe.

Another main objective is that stopping at punishment for things that are non-destructive is a missed opportunity to develop an ability. Not all kids can do these things at home -- there should be a safe and guided environment where kids with these abilities can use them to help the community. If someone not in that program breaks into the network, while they should be punished, they should also be put into said program so that thier obvious aptitude can be better directed.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

teach this: your rights end when others begin (4.83 / 6) (#4)
by Speare on Tue May 15, 2001 at 05:40:05 PM EST

The general rule of thumb is, "your rights have a limit, and that limit is where your actions transgress against someone else's rights."

Why don't schools and parents teach that ONE little thing? Some kids hear the Golden Rule when they're about five or eight, but that's about the end of standard interpersonal ethics schooling.

This goes with "hacking," too. If it's yours, do what you want to do, including ruining it. If it's someone else's, treat it well.

If a computer somewhere offers a service, then you may use the service as a guest. (That's why they call them hostnames, eh?) A computer with prized information shouldn't be seen as a target, in exactly the same way as you don't reach for a retailer's cash register drawer when the clerk opens it in front of you. It's not yours.

The perceived loss of accountability over the network, and the lack of respect for other people formed in one's youth, are two trends I don't see getting better. A lot of people just don't grok (or care) that it affects another person or many people, when they attack a computer that doesn't belong to them. Life is a game.
[ e d @ e x p l o r a t i . c o m ]

I agree, but (4.00 / 1) (#8)
by CyberQuog on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:09:34 PM EST

What happens when, to use RadiantMatrix's example, a kid has a DOS box open because he simply wants to ping yahoo.com and see if it's up. An ignorant teacher comes along and sees him doing something that she doesn't understand, so she has him suspended 10 days for "hacking". The kid didn't hurt anyone else or have any intent to, he just did something that his teacher didn't understand.

The major problem I see is that most teachers and administrators in schools (public, i'm not sure about private), have no clue as to what's going on. They only know about computers from their three workshops they were forced to attend. This is and isn't the teacher/administrators fault. They could spend extra time learning, but it is not an easy thing to do sometimes. I see it as the boards and even tax-payers fault, who don't want to spend the money to properly train teachers.

[ Parent ]
Two types of teachers (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by natael on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:23:46 PM EST

The major problem I see is that most teachers and administrators in schools (public, i'm not sure about private), have no clue as to what's going on. They only know about computers from their three workshops they were forced to attend. This is and isn't the teacher/administrators fault. They could spend extra time learning, but it is not an easy thing to do sometimes.
From what I've seen in my school, there are two types of teachers/administrators. The largest group attends their limited training. They can usually turn the machines on, enter grades, type, and browse the web.

The second type are the teachers who have a person interest in computers. They often know quite a bit more, and are more willing to defend students if they get caught doing something they shouldn't.

If a student is with the first teacher, they aren't going to be doing anything technical. They'll usually be typing up a report, or doing some kind of research on the internet. The teachers can understand this, and as long as your not looking at porn, you shouldn't have any trouble. These classes are not the times to play around and experiment. If your typing a report, you have NO REASON to be at a CLI, DOS, or doing something off topic. Advanced students will often get board, or see a simple problem and decide to take the initiative and fix it themselves instead of waiting for a sysop. If your done with the computer, turn it off instead of playing around. The teachers just aren't trained to deal with it.

As many people have mentioned there are more advanced classes. If you feel the need to experiment, or learn something new, find someone to help you. Currently I'm finishing up an AP C++/Computer Science course, and an independent study learning Ultrix. These classes are not taught by teachers who first learned about the internet last year. Often, if I'm having trouble with my compiler, I'll have to dump down into DOS to test some things. We aren't supposed to be there, but my teacher knows I'm responsible enough to be trusted with it, and its directly related to my class. You just need to find the instructors who work at your level (or above) so there wont be any misunderstandings.

[ Parent ]

Whose problem is that? (none / 0) (#24)
by Wonko The Sane on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:21:13 AM EST

Advanced students will often get board [sic], or see a simple problem and decide to take the initiative and fix it themselves instead of waiting for a sysop. If your done with the computer, turn it off instead of playing around. The teachers just aren't trained to deal with it.

If the teachers aren't trained to deal with it, it's THEIR problem, and the solution should be on THEIR side, not on the students'. So, saying a student should turn his computer off because his teacher is undertrained is wrong on both the moral (responsibility) and the practical levels.

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
To each their own (none / 0) (#26)
by natael on Wed May 16, 2001 at 08:58:46 AM EST

If your an English teacher, you should be able to take your entire class up to the computer lab and have them do some research. Its unrealistic to think they should waste the time learning about computers if they already know the basics.

Most of us know what we do because we either studied Computer Science in school, or we spend most of our waking lives working with computers. You could train an instructor to the point that they know DOS != hacking, but they wont know the difference between a student using a utility to ping a server, or someone who is reformatting the drive.

I have to stick with my original point. If your in the lab to type or do research, thats what your there for. These are school machines, not some toy to play around with. If your interested in doing more, don't do it during English, or whatever class your in. Go talk to Guidance, and set up your own program of study with someone who can help you, like the schools Network Admin, or someone else.

[ Parent ]

I don't know what's funnier . . . (2.00 / 1) (#33)
by adamant on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:09:04 PM EST

. . . the idea of getting kicked out of school for pinging yahoo or the idea of the DOS command prompt as a powerful CLI that should be kept out the hands of children.

[ Parent ]
Paranoia? (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by darthaya on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:12:51 PM EST

Isn't the computer security people *always* paranoid about being hacked?

Blaming people who is in charge of the security paranoid is certain not the right way. Ask rusty what caused k5's popularity. :)

Paranoia v. Caution (none / 0) (#10)
by RadiantMatrix on Tue May 15, 2001 at 06:33:16 PM EST

The paranoia I speak of is fear so acute that legitimate activity becomes suspect. It is people in general, not security folk, who are so paranoid that "they might get hacked" that they have a worst-case-scenario always in mind.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]
I would guess you're not pandering... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by psctsh on Tue May 15, 2001 at 07:56:02 PM EST

...if you believe in what you're saying.

You seem to be missing out on several concepts related to this issue, mainly dealing with other people's property, the maliciousness of children, and the lack of rights for children.

To begin with, you seem to be outraged that students are subjected to strict penalties for hacking into computer systems, whether or not they actually *do* anything. I understand your feelings, simply because you seem to think that students are being punished for "pinging" yahoo. Regardless of the fact that you present no proof that this is indeed the case (I'll pretend that this isn't actually paranoia on your part), many times students are required sign and get their parents to sign a form (stating that they will do nothing that could be misconstrued as malicious activity) when using the schools computer systems. Since the ones making the judgement call are in fact the faculty (and the students know this), they will punish anyone suspected of hacking. You seem to be forgetting that they are the school's computers and not the students'. Therefore, they can put whatever access restrictions they want on them.

You also seem to forget the maliciousness of high schoolers. Teenagers, given access to something, will trash it to impress someone. This is the same demographic that trashes people's yards on halloween, causes my car insurance rate to be astronomically high, and is so very keen on being "rebellious." Your complaint that it's too harsh for a student to be suspended for "10 days for completely destroying the network" if the student was only curious is naive. In all reality, any student, regardless of motivation, should be expelled for that kind of behavior. What do you think would happen if the student completely trashed the school grounds (more of the school's property)? And as for your excuse about more lenient penalties for the merely curious, what about someone who took his/her teacher's gradebook "just for a good read?" And then burned it? "Accidently?"

The last misconception you have (that I'm going to discuss) is that you seem to think that students have rights. They don't. Just ask any teacher--in a school, any rights given to the students can be taken away just as easily. There are no "constitutional" rights for due process and being "innocent until proven guilty," simply because none of the students are being tried in a court of law. If you, as an adult, go to a museum and break things, you will be taken off the premises and banned from ever returning--without a trial. Children don't have free will and rights, otherwise they wouldn't be attending school in the first place. They'd be at home throwing rocks, fucking their date, or hacking into Micro$oft. Drunk.

Because they're such gosh-darn curious, wonderful beings.

If you'll reread that line . . . (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by liberalmafia on Tue May 15, 2001 at 10:40:39 PM EST

You'll see that the sentence about "trashing the entire network" was followed by "However, if the motivation was one of curiosity and no damage was caused, lighter penalties need to exist."

That said, it's an easy mistake to make; I had to reread it myself before I was sure what it meant. I think that needs a rewrite.

Also: I hate to just say an article is too long, but this one is, mainly because it tries to cover too many points. I'd ask for supporting evidence, at least anecdotal evidence, but that would just make it longer. I think to tighten it up, some of the points need to be sacrificed -- the author needs to narrow the focus.

[ Parent ]

to quote myself (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by psctsh on Tue May 15, 2001 at 11:55:36 PM EST

Your complaint that it's too harsh for a student to be suspended for "10 days for completely destroying the network" if the student was only curious is naive. In all reality, any student, regardless of motivation...

Yeah, I saw that, I just misworded it in my first paragraph, which was awkward. My main point was just that it doesn't matter whether you do any damage or not, breaking in and poking your head around where you're explicitly not supposed to be is illegal; Creeping in the bushes and looking in the windows isn't looked upon favorably either.

As for the article itself, I didn't have a problem with the writing style, I had a problem with the fact that the author wanted to convince the audience that "hacker" students are being mercilessly persecuted. It seemed to me that the author was ignoring reality and playing off the paranoia of many in the tech community, which, though common here, is starting to piss me off. Students (at least the one's capable of hacking) understand the concept that property exists on computers, and are usually aware that other people don't want you going through their stuff. Unfortunately, this author is portraying the situation like the students have a right to open a dos box and ping yahoo--they don't. If a teacher see's a student with any program open other than IE or Word, there's a reason to be suspicious.

[ Parent ]
Imputing motives (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri May 18, 2001 at 04:08:08 PM EST

Firstly, I don't believe that "hacker students are mercilessly persecuted", nor was I playing of some paranoia that seems to be ever-present. What I am saying, in fact, is that knowledgable students are being punished as though they were hackers, and that hackers are being severely punished for even small innappropriate acts. What should be happening? Kids that can hack should have that ability channeled -- if they misuse it, they need to be punished, but punishment alone will only result in hackers that are harder to catch.

Secondly, I'm not talking about the "right" of students to open a DOS box. I'm talking about students who do so being punished for breaching security when in fact they were merely being productive. If it draws suspicion to have a DOS box open, that's one thing -- but to be punished severely for it is quite another. Especially is that the case since I have yet to see a school AUP exclude use of the DOS prompt.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

Maliciousness - definitely! (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by xriso on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:55:56 AM EST

Here's a wonderful example from me in highschool: In the computer lab, there was a center "isle" of computers, back to back. So one day I got this wonderful idea for a harmless prank (kids, don't try this at school!): Because the monitors were plugged into the computers' power supplies, I decided to switch the power cords. That way, when the computer on one side of the isle was turned off, the monitor on the other side would do likewise.

Well, I did this on one computer pair, in full view of many witnesses. When the kindergarten class at the end of the day was confused by the strange phenomenon, the local computer expert teacher came after me. Now, it turns out that I was the first person in the school to screw around with the computers, so the teachers used me as a bit of a warning: they put up papers on the lab windows that said: "Mark was banned from the computer lab for playing with the wires". (I was banned for a month or something, but everybody else absolutely had to keep asking "Hey, aren't you banned?". Response: "Well duh, my name is Mark.") Well, I have now learned my lesson: be more secret when screwing around with computers (actually, I haven't actually done anything else that was bad, although I could...) This whole experience is probably what matured me so that I didn't get into hacking across the internet.
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Punishment must fit crime (none / 0) (#27)
by greycat on Wed May 16, 2001 at 10:22:08 AM EST

If a student causes a local PC to become non-working (by deleting files, or messing with configuration, etc.), then the appropriate punishment is to make the student fix it, after school during detention. If we're talking about Windows PCs then it will probably require reinstallation in many cases. Reinstalling Windows is more than adequate punishment.

If a student breaches the security of a network server, get that student on your staff! Make the student help the system administrator restore the data (or operating system, or whatever) -- after school during detention -- and tell the student that from now on, he or she will share the responsibility of keeping the servers running. (If your network servers are so insecure that a kid can penetrate them, you need all the help you can get.)

Meanwhile, schools need to emphasize ethics a bit more than they do currently. Simply telling students to "do as we say" without any rationale does not help the student develop into an adult. Students need to understand the consequences of their actions, and should be made responsible for them. Suspension may work for some cases (such as fighting), but for the types of activities we're discussing here, it serves no useful purpose. I would suggest counseling instead, or perhaps having the student spend some time tutoring younger students.

This whole article reminds me too much of The Simpsons anyway. It's depressing that we, as a society, would place our brightest students in the hands of such incompetent bufoons. Oh, well -- I suppose this is good training for the smart but naive students in "how to succeed in real life" (i.e., how to suppress your creativity and individualism just enough that you don't get singled out, but not so much that you go insane).

[ Parent ]
Huh?? (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by scheme on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:27:47 PM EST

I'm sorry but some of your statements are just totally off base.

If a student causes a local PC to become non-working (by deleting files, or messing with configuration, etc.), then the appropriate punishment is to make the student fix it, after school during detention. If we're talking about Windows PCs then it will probably require reinstallation in many cases. Reinstalling Windows is more than adequate punishment. If a student breaches the security of a network server, get that student on your staff! Make the student help the system administrator restore the data (or operating system, or whatever) -- after school during detention -- and tell the student that from now on, he or she will share the responsibility of keeping the servers running.

Let's apply this to another context. If the student vandalizes school property, he or she should be made to fix it... that should be punishment enough. If the student breaks into a classrom, he should be made part of the staff...

In both cases, the student has shown that she or he does not have respect for other people's property whether it is computers or physical items. Why should the administration believe that giving the student a pass or giving the student more power will help here. In any case reinstalling windows is not even remotely close to be an adequate punishment.

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein

[ Parent ]
Students do indeed have rights (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by ichimunki on Wed May 16, 2001 at 11:59:36 AM EST

"In our system, state-operated schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students in school as well as out of school are 'persons' under our Constitution."
-- Justice Abe Fortas, Tinker v. DesMoines (1969)

Because public schools are operated and funded by the government, they are not exempt from honoring and obeying the Constitution. I am not a lawyer, but it doesn't take a lawyer to figure this out. Schoolteachers and principals are agents of the government, thus are bound by its rules. You cannot be given "rights", they are there and they are inalienable. Anything else is a privilege.

Using school computers may be a privilege in some instances. It may be a right it other cases. For example, if you are required to turn in homework digitally, the school cannot require you to possess the means to do this on your own and must provide a computer for your use. However, such use of the computer is limited, and even opening a DOS window may be in violation of the allowed uses. Certainly I think the lesson for honest, technically apt kids in school in all this is, if it IS broke, don't fix it, even if you can. Tell a teacher and let them fix it. If your teacher is likely to misconstrue a DOS window and the ping command, you are better off saving your wizardry skills for your friends at home on your own system.

Your adult-in-the-museum example is a complete non-comparison, most museums are privately owned and operated institutions and as such have the right to refuse access (as long as they don't violate discrimination statutes). If they want to sue you for damages to their property, they can't simply reach into your wallet while you are on their property, they must use the court system.

In any case, I can't imagine a public school in the U.S. that doesn't have an appeals policy. The school board is usually the ultimate arbiter in these cases. The problem is, it's going to be a teacher's word against the student's. Ultimately, groups like the ACLU frequently sue schools over faulty discipline procedures if the appeals process fails an innocent student. But I don't think we have a wave of unjustified suspensions and expulsions for computer crimes that are based on harmless activities, so I'm not sure I'm too worried about the scenario presented in the original write-up.

[ Parent ]
You missed my point (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri May 18, 2001 at 04:00:44 PM EST

You seem to have missed the point.

I am in no way implying that kids who breach security should be scot-free. What I am saying is twofold. Firstly, there are various levels of inappropriate computer use. Hacking without damage may still be wrong, but should not be treated as though the network were destroyed. Destroying the network could be grounds for severe suspension or even expulsion, depending on the circumstance. Secondly, there are perfectly legitimate activities for which kids are being punished -- the basis for the accusation of "hacking" is simply administrator/teacher ignorance in these cases. Since these kids rarely get the opportunity to explain thier actions before being punished, there are many innocent punishments.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

Students need rights in school. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by dram on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:30:32 PM EST

I think that children in school should have the same rights as any other citizen. As it is at this time schools get the same rights as parents over the children in their custody.

Schools can search students property without reason or cause. They can also punish students without much reason or due process. These are the same things as parents can do. Parents can ground there children or go through their rooms and nobody will say anything. Its called good parenting. But parents do not keep records of what their children do...if a parent punishes a child unfairly it does not affect the childs future, it does not hurt the childs chances getting into college. This does not hold true for what schools do. Schools keep records and send them onto colleges.

Schools get the same rights as parents in regards to their children. But the affects of what the schools do is far greater than what parents do. For this reason schools should not be granted the rights of parents over their students.


RE:Students need rights in school. (none / 0) (#32)
by grongbot on Wed May 16, 2001 at 09:04:31 PM EST

and imagine just how quickly the schools everywhere would crash and burn if ALL school kids were given the same rights as ordinary citizens? I used to feel the same back when I was at school, but now that I have a few years out of school (well, university now) under my belt, I think it would be a particularly scary scenario you propose...

Students are, for the most part, KIDS - not "adults". Where do you draw the line on who gets what rights? Kindergarten students have full citizen rights? final year students? year 6? when/where do you decide "Right, your going into (insert grade here) now, you can have total rights. We have treated you as children before, but hey - your now in (insert grade here) with all the rights of a 'normal' citizen". IMO it won't work.

Theres always going to be at least one dickhead in your grade that will screw it up for everyone - what would you propose happens to them? try them as adults?

I totally agree that schools shouldn't have the right to search students without reason or cause. I used to leave fake suicide notes in my drawers to freak my mum out - I realise that in this "lets take a gun to school" era that its probably not the most sensible thing to do @ school though ;) but thats a whole other issue... Surely there has to be some sort of justification - even hell flimsy justification - for disciplining a student (ie. detention etc). I don't agree with the passing of records from school to college etc - the way you behave in one phase of your life will not and does not necesarily reflect or be an indication of how you will behave in the next phase/stage. We don't/didn't have that problem here (.au) in the schools I went to.


[ Parent ]
Kids aren't citizens? (none / 0) (#37)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri May 18, 2001 at 03:56:12 PM EST

I'm not trying to imply that children of all ages should have exactly the same freedoms as adults. After all, we all know that freedom comes with responsibility, and that responsibility is developed. What I am saying is that children should have the same rights as any other citizen.

Children should not be subjected to punishment without due process -- and that due process should closely resemble the due process that adults are entitled to. I guess I fail to see why basic rights -- those enshrined in the First Ammendment in the US, for example -- shouldn't extend to everyone regardless of age.

As far as punishment for kids who do break into systems, I'm not saying that they should be tried through the legal system as adults. Rather, they should be afforded the opportunity to defend themselves against the charges, and have a right to a trial by a jury of thier peers. The peers of a high school student would likely be other high school students. If this jury of students can hear both sides of a story and decide that the accused was not attempting to cause any harm to the system, but was the victim of a paranoid teacher, then appropriate action can be recommended.

Of course, since these are children, this jury decision might be subject to review by the administration or some such "safety valve" measure. In this way, the kids keep thier rights, and the school can still punish those who commit inappropriate acts.

never put off until tomorrow what can be done the day after.
Express Yourself

[ Parent ]

How did the kid get there. (4.66 / 3) (#15)
by kwhite on Tue May 15, 2001 at 08:33:42 PM EST

Some responses to this article and others in the past have brought up the DOS window example as a reason for a kid being suspended or getting in trouble.

I've got a question of these DOS windows:
How did the get get it open?

Many schools I know have removed the capability to get at the command prompt easily. Now when I was a kid I remember trying to get at something I knew about on a computer at school and could not get to it. So guess what I did? No I didn't make a boot disk or muck around the system looking for what I wanted. I very simply raised my hand and asked the teacher in charge why I could not get to what I wanted.

Many times computer people forget that they are on someone else's system and that it may not act like theirs for a reason. When this happens we want to "fix" the problem, and then when we get in trouble we raise are hands and holler I didn't realize you didn't want it like that. Ask questions to someone in charge, they might just surprise you and let you actually do what you want.

I'm not saying teacher have not overreacted on things, but typically we don't always hear the whole story. I'd love to ask some of these people that had the DOS window open how many times the teacher asked you not to have that open during their class, and then was surprised when written up and sent to the office.

Kids and geeks a like need to realize that the computers are there as a tool to help the teachers better educate them on the three R's typically. So unless you are taking a computer programming class or something similiar at school do not do anything except what the teacher asked. I took a couple programming courses in highschool and many times I was done ahead of everyone else by quite a bit and I slowly became bored. Instead of mucking around the system I went up to the teacher of the class and asked if there was anyway I could make the program better or even something new I could try. Typically he found me more stuff to do and it was harder then the first and I learned something.

Could someone please answer me why kids and even some geeks seem that the only way to learn something on computers is to do something they should not be doing on someone elses machine. If it is your machine then great mess with in, try and hack into it, DOS attack it, mail bomb it, etc.

Allright... (none / 0) (#19)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:40:43 AM EST

this may not be that uncommon but i am not even allowed to do schoolwork on school machines. the programme QBASIC.EXE, is banned from being used on school computers even though there is a CLASS ON QBASIC which you can take (and i did take). Same thing with the internet. Students are not allowed to access the internet any more. 4 years ago they could...but now they are not allowed to. the hardware, software is all there....but we are just not allowed to. it's as if we are going backwards technologically here. oh yes and the teachers who work the library think that students shouldnt even touch the computers...even though the schoolboard spent like what 3 milllion buying them...but generally there is a Huge restrictions on school computers around here. it's insane. i hate my school sometimes
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
context, context, context (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 16, 2001 at 03:06:12 AM EST

this may not be that uncommon but i am not even allowed to do schoolwork on school machines. the programme QBASIC.EXE, is banned from being used on school computers even though there is a CLASS ON QBASIC which you can take (and i did take).
If the school computers in question were purchased with the intent of allowing comp sci students to perform comp sci homework, then this likely to be a case of idiocy. OTOH, it could be that the machines in question are intended for a different purpose. A basic interpretter can do many, many things to a box without proper security. It could be that there is a valid reason for not allowing students to do particular kinds of homework on particular machines.
Same thing with the internet. Students are not allowed to access the internet any more. 4 years ago they could...but now they are not allowed to. the hardware, software is all there....but we are just not allowed to.
This example would be much more interesting to me if I knew why Internet access is now restricted. Did the school get sued over Internet usage? Did the school find rampant abuse of Internet priviledges? Is the school required by local, state, or federal law to prohibit certain types of Internet usage and the only means that the school knows is entirely effective to ban all such usage? Is the adminsitration just going off on a power-trip?
it's insane. i hate my school sometimes
In high school, I very much shared that sentiment. The flip side is that unless your parents are dirt poor, this is your last chance to get free education (assuming you are enrolled in a public school). Push yourself to the max and learn everything you can while it's free. Once you get regurgitated into the real world, you have to pay for the priviledge of being treated like worthless peon with no rights.

[ Parent ]
dirt poor (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by anonymous cowerd on Wed May 16, 2001 at 05:39:01 PM EST

unless your parents are dirt poor, this is your last chance to get free education...

Jesus, Lee! You always struck me as a smart fella, what's with you suddenly parroting that God damned no-good prick Ronald Reagan with this crap about the "dirt poor" having some kind of inside line to a college education that is somehow denied to the middle class? For crying out loud, you should know better; do you lack even one acquaintance who grew up dirt poor?

Shame on you! To think you took the word of political millionaires as to what life is like down there in the impoverished class. Next thing you know you'll be saying the food-stamp poor all drive around in gold Cadillacs; at which point, for mercy's sake, we'll have to put you to sleep.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

WTF? (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 17, 2001 at 09:20:53 AM EST

Got news for you, most federal and state financial aid is need based. Not only that, it considers the income of one's parents whether they are willing to pay for it or not. If one's parents are even in the lower middle class in terms of income, one will not qualify for many grants.

Of course loans will still be available, but need to be paid back meaning that they aren't free. Private scholarships are available, but not as common as many people would like to think, and large number of private scholarships are also need based. If one doesn't excel accademically, fall into some odd special interest group, or participate in some extracurricular activity known for providing scholarships, one is only able to get minimal private scholarships.

Notice I didn't say that the poor had access to continuing eductation that the middle class did not. I only asserted that the poor can go for free while others have to pay.

And I don't think this is a bad thing, however, it does seem to me that I draw the correct conclusion from all of this. Public high school is usually one's last chance to be educated for free.

Hence my advice, make the most of what one can get for free while it's available. To quote Badfinger, If you want it, here it is come and get it, but you better hurry, 'cause it's going fast. . .

I'm not really sure what your point is. It seems to me that you are arguing that poor people, in general, do not go to college and therefore have to pay for it just like people who are well off. While financial considerations may very well keep poor people from going to college (for example even though tuition can get picked up by Uncle Sam, food and rent money still has to come from somewhere), it seems to me that other factors have much more impact on why lower income citizens rarely attend college. The largest factors seem to me to be poor accademic skills (which are mostly cultural, in high school my good grades made me the target of much animosity and ridicule, not only did I blow the curve for everyone else, I was a nerd -- and that was well before I got into computers, I'm rather a late bloomer when it comes to technology) and tradition (I've had friends that wanted to go to college and were talked out of it by their parents -- working in a factory isn't good enough for you?).

But hey, what do I know about poor people? Growing up in a single-parent family that shopped for groceries with food stamps shopped for clothes from the second hand store doesn't teach one anything about the plight of those that can't make ends meet. Financial status aside, I had it quite good compared to a large number of people. My wonderful mom always made sure we had a balanced diet (even if it tasted like crap) and made sure we did our homework. I wouldn't be the person I am today without the constant loving support of my mother no matter how much grief I gave her.

In many ways, my experiences of growing up in the lower class were atypical. In other ways it was very typical. To this day, I feel very uncomfortable in any environment where the majority of people are nicely dressed. When co-workers talk about having their house remodled or their new cars, I have a very hard time relating. For that matter, two and a half years ago I got a raise that I thought was insane (eighteen percent). I still haven't entirely acclimated to having enough money to pay all my bills. That calendar year was the first year, my wife and I ended less in debt than at the beginning of the year.

And for puposes of full disclosure, by the time I graduated from high school, my mother married (?) into the upper-middle class, my last two years of high school were in suburban school districts that were definately not the typical public schools.

Next thing you know you'll be saying the food-stamp poor all drive around in gold Cadillacs; at which point, for mercy's sake, we'll have to put you to sleep.
Please do. If I ever say anything of the sort, please put me out of my misery and delussion as quickly as possible.

[ Parent ]
Techno to the rescue (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by axxeman on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:00:47 AM EST

[Editorial: +1FP nice writeup]

Re cluelessnes of school comp staff, to quote the mp3 currently playing (dunno name, soz):

They know what is what
But they don't know what is what
They just struck
What the fuck?

lec·tur·er (lkchr-r) n. Abbr. lectr: graduate unemployable outside the faculty.

Norman Cooks' (AKA Fatboy Slim) Star 69 (none / 0) (#23)
by Afty on Wed May 16, 2001 at 06:18:16 AM EST

I think that's the title anyway, I'm working from memory.

[ Parent ]
Simple Policy for Dealing With Cracking (5.00 / 2) (#22)
by moshez on Wed May 16, 2001 at 05:52:34 AM EST

Why, instead of sticks, not use carrots? Anyone who discovers a flaw in the security system and sends a working crack to <x technical person in charge> gets credit for one exercise in the computer-programming class. If he is not in it, he also gets oppurtinity to retroactively enroll and do previous exercises. If the crack is accompanied by a *fix* (either clear instructions how to close the hole or a software patch), double credit is given. Only a crack which is a) the first to land in x's mailbox and b) has not been *used* against the system gets such credit.

Nowadays, if anyone remarked to the admin about a possible hole in the security policy will likely be dragged off to the principle's office...

[T]he k5 troll HOWTO has been updated ... This update is dedicated to moshez, and other bitter anti-trolls.

My experience. (5.00 / 4) (#25)
by steven on Wed May 16, 2001 at 08:32:49 AM EST

Many many years ago, shortly after Windows NT 4 was released, I was in about grade eight. One night, I was up real late doing an assignment, and decided to put it on an ftp server so I could download it from school the next day instead of have to take it to a machine at home on our network to print it.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the sysadmin's had removed all useful items from the 'start' menu. Being the kid I was, I found out that 'right clicking' the 'start' menu and then clicking 'explore' opened me a 'windows explorer' window fo i could then run 'ftp.exe' and download my assignment.

So far, so good.

Next day, I tried to log on to my school's network. "Account Disabled. Contact your System Administrator." Uhoh. The day after that my head of house pulls me aside and tells me that they were "on to you[me]." Hmmm.

Anyway, more cutting of my story, I got in trouble - account disabled for the remaining semester and a half of the school year, letter home, etc, for printing an assignment after doing, what i thought, was something I was perfectly entitled to do. Afterall, we were never told not to do it. Luckily my parents have more sense than my school and wrote a nice letter back, with details I won't go into, and they decided not to suspend me.

So, I guess the problem is system administrators not knowing what they're doing, paranoid schools, and kids with too much knowledge. Since then, my school has smartened up - they don't care if kids ftp or telnet to their boxes at home [which isn't expressely forbidden], so long as they don't do bad stuff [according to some 'terms of use' that we have to abide by.]

Oh yeah, what did I get in trouble for? "Breaking into the school's computer network and using prohibited software to access a remote computer." Or something like that. No mention that they didn't stop us using that 'prohibited software' (ftp.exe), I didn't 'break in' (I used a well known explorer shortcut), and that the remote computer was mine anyway, and I was doing all this to print an assignment...

My two cents worth, instead of English homework. :D


You seemed like a smart kid (5.00 / 3) (#30)
by kwhite on Wed May 16, 2001 at 01:47:58 PM EST

As I said in another post. If you noticed that the system did not let you have access to something why did you at first try to find a way to get it, instead of asking the teacher or sys admin to allow you access to FTP so that you could get homework. If they had cleared the start bar there was a reason.

I do not understands kids belief that hey if I can find it then it must be okay to use it, and then are surprised when they are in trouble. My first question to you is why you didn't ask someone to get access to this and explain why you needed it.


[ Parent ]
True. (none / 0) (#34)
by steven on Thu May 17, 2001 at 03:19:26 AM EST

Looking back, I guess it was a pretty stupid thing to do. But I was between classes, had to hand the assignment in during the next class, and I guess there was no teachery type person around to ask (I can't remember exactly, this happened about four years ago).

Why did I hunt around until I found what I wanted? I was a kid, and kids are generally known for acting before they think. Also, if they [school system admins, mainly] try to make their computers more tailolored to their liking by removing start-menu contents, they should tell us not to use programs we might find in there. That would have stopped me - a simple "Don't run any program besides the ones we provide shortcuts to on your desktop." Ensuring they disable the type of Explorer-accessing shortcut I used would be a good start, too.

Kids are kids, and will always find a way to get around something - and it's more fun for them to do it by themselves, rather than asking someone to do it 'properly'

Like I said, they've grown up, and so have I. They still haven't given us a "Don't Use" list of programs, but now I regularly telnet and ftp to home boxes to update and download documents, without anyone getting annoyed with me.

It's also kinda cool that I have another 22 weeks of highschool left. :)

Thanks for the smart kid stuff, too. I just wish I were smart enough to act on the realization that I actually have to work this year to get good marks. ;)


[ Parent ]

Zero tolerance. (none / 0) (#35)
by kitten on Thu May 17, 2001 at 05:14:02 AM EST

I think a large part of the problem here is the so-called "zero tolerance" policy that the majority of public schools (in America at any rate) have implemented. The policy applies to almost any school rule: weapons, insubordination, computer abuse, etc.

"Zero tolerance", to me, is a knee-jerk reaction, a way for administrators to avoid having to make any decisions or examine situations on a case-by-case basis.
Student X opens a DOS prompt so he can download an assignment he left at home, via ftp.
Student Y opens a DOS prompt to try accessing the school LAN and tweaking his grades a bit.

Both students receive the exact same penalty for "hacking", because administrators are too stupid, too lazy, or too ignorant to bother looking at details. They can simply turn their minds off, say "zero tolerance", and lay down a ham-fisted, blanket penalty for everyone, regardless of context, circumstance, or intent.

Another large part of the problem - as the author pointed out - is the professional educator's utter ignorance of computers.
I recall many bitter battles with the "media specialists" (jaded old women) at my high school's library who had absolutely no knowledge of computers:
- They'd panic if a student wanted to look at a streaming video relevant to his research, just for example. Students were reguarly sent to the principal's office for things like this, and I know several of them were punished based on the "media specialist"'s ignorant and idiotic report of what the student allegedly did (almost invariably involving the word "hacking").
- They once sent a student to the principal's office - I am not making this up - because the student had inadvertantly dragged an icon off the edge of the desktop, and the librarian thought he had deleted it.
- When giving a Web address, they'd give the entire thing. Not "you can use google.com to look it up", but "you can look it up at h tee tee pee colon slash slash dubyuh dubyuh dubyuh dot google dot com."

The point of these little anecdotes is that the very people who are doling out penalties for computer "abuse" have no knowledge whatsoever of the machines they are entrusted to monitor.
(Not that I should be surprised; these are the same people who thought a student was changing the TV station with a laser pointer, but that's another story..)

So, a few ideas to help alleviate the problem:

1. Zero tolerance policies need to be abandonded, and each situation examined on an individual basis, taking intent, motivation, circumstances, and context. (this should also involve *asking* the student what he was doing, instead of making paranoid assumptions.)

2. Administrators (as well as teachers, etc) need to understand the technology which they are lording over.
It's true that the computers in question are school property, and to an extent I agree that students shouldn't behave as though they own these machines, but then again, a student shouldn't have to stop what he's doing to explain to the teacher the basics of the Web.

Perhaps - and this is just a thought, because I'm not sure how well it could be implemented - perhaps a possible solution would be to assign a few trustworthy students who actually know computers, to deal with this sort of thing. Certainly a program like that would eliminate the problem of having paranoid and ignorant teachers hurling wild accusations.

Then again, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
Kids, Hacking, and Human Rights | 39 comments (38 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!