No IT security issue left behind

The three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – have moved into the 21st century at most elementary and high schools, but technological improvements have come with some risk.

For one, the most talked about education-related IT security story of the past year has been the conviction of Julie Amero. She’s the New London, Ct. public school teacher who was convicted of four counts of risk of injury to a minor after pornographic images repeatedly popped up on a class computer in 2004.

Amero – and the security professionals serving as official or unofficial advisors – contend that she was the victim of an insecure PC and spyware.

Amero is due to be sentenced tomorrow. Check back with for the details.

Meanwhile, here’s another school-related case making local headlines.

On Monday, a recent graduate of Texas’ A.J. Moore Academy surrendered to authorities after allegedly hacking into the Waco Independent School District computer network. Samuel Porter Smith, 18, was charged with breaching a computer system – a Class B misdemeanor in Texas carrying a punishment of up to 180 days in county jail, a $2,000 fine or up to two years on probation.

Sean Edward Erickson, 17, was arrested last week on the same charge.

Erickson, A.J. Moore’s IT Student of the Year three years running, said he thought school officials would thank him for pointing out vulnerabilities in their system. “Before that, they didn’t even know about it until I told them about it,” he told the Waco Tribune-Herald. Another feature in the paper reported that Erickson, who has plans to attend Texas State Technical College and pursue a degree in network security, has a poster of the motion picture Hackers hanging on his bedroom wall.

In response, school officials have tightened the network’s access controls.

So did Erickson and his alleged cohorts actually do the district a favor, despite what may turn out to be an illegal act? That can be debated.

What’s more certain is that educational institutions benefit from routinely testing the operability and security of their networks and PCs.

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