Teenager Charged With Felony for Changing Teacher's Desktop - Rolling Stone
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Teenager Charged With Felony for Changing Teacher’s Desktop Photo

After figuring out the computer’s password – the teacher’s last name – the eighth grader accessed computer without authorization


A computer hacker

Patrick Strattner/fStop Images/Getty

A student at a Tampa Bay-area middle school was charged with a felony cyber crime after gaining unauthorized access to a teacher’s computer and changing the desktop photo. The fourteen-year-old eighth grader at Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, Florida, is accused of accessing the computer of a teacher he “didn’t like” and changing the desktop image to a photo of two men kissing, which the teen called a “prank.”

In addition to the felony for the offense against a computer system and unauthorized access, the student was also suspended from school for 10 days. “If they would have notified me it was illegal, I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But all they said was, ‘You shouldn’t be doing that,'” the teen told WTSP Tampa Bay. Compounding the violation, the 14-year-old unknowingly accessed a computer that held the encrypted files containing the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), a statewide standardized test, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

However, local authorities say that the student didn’t open the FCAT files, nor did he change grades even though he was capable of doing so after accessing the teacher’s computer. “He was targeting a teacher,” Pasco Sheriff’s Office Detective Anthony Bossone told WTSP Tampa Bay. “He tried to put pornography on the teacher’s computer.”

The teen was able to access the teacher’s computer because he noticed that faculty members were each given unique, obvious passwords: Their own last name. “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,” the student told the newspaper.

The teacher who the eighth grader was targeting with his prank was absent that day, but a substitute noticed the photo and alerted the administration. The student had previously been suspended three days from school for similarly accessing computers without permission.

Following this recent incident, the teen was released from the Land O’Lakes Detention Center and into the custody of his mother, who argued that while her son shouldn’t have accessed the computers illegally, the teachers’ passwords also shouldn’t have been so easy to figure out. The school district spokesperson said that “our information technology department is working to get all our passwords centralized.”


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