I have no faith in my school administration.

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J Spade
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I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby J Spade » Tue May 06, 2008 2:55 pm UTC

Copied from my blag post:

This is going to be a fairly long-winded blog post, so take a deep breath as I get it going.

I shall be doing this in order of events as brought attention to me.

Way back in March, my file on the school server for my use in my Photography class went missing. My teacher instructed me to look for it in all the other files in the class' partition of the drive. Instead of manually clicking on every folder and subfolder on the drive, I made a shortcut to the command prompt, allowing me to use it when I needed to create the tree diagram of the drive to more easily find my stuff. I never found it. One thing I hate about my school's tech administrator is his paranoia. You can't even right click on the clock in the bottom corner to see what day it even is. And for some stupid reason, the C:\ drive is blocked from the main My Computer window on all the computers. Well, that would be fine, if the default download or save location was not the C:\ drive. So I made a shortcut to that, too, for when my crap gets saved to the wrong spot and I just want to move it over to my flash drive, and clean up my junk off the computer. Now we're going to fast forward a bit.

Last Thursday, my high school's marching band went on a field trip to Myrtle Beach. It was pretty awesome, and we all had a lot of fun. When I got back, the iMac, that I use for just about everything computer related, will not start up. Ok, fine. We take it to the apple store, they replace the main logic board, an it works fine while we're at the store. But when we get it home, the graphics are all out of whack, and the system isn't booting up properly. Well, we send it in to apple, and they will have a new system sent out to us eventually. Well, no word on that yet, but I'm getting fairly impatient. That was just the prologue to the whole deal.

Three days after my return from the marching band trip, I am called from my 4th period AP Euro class to go to the office. I figured it was about a big fight I witnessed at lunch earlier that day. My administrator goes on to explain that I have been referred to the office by the tech guy for 'malicious modification of the school's server'. What? Apparently access to the command prompt means malicious activity to out paranoid tech guy, and I was being given a preemptive strike: 6 days' suspension. I was dumbfounded. I've seen people get their face bashed in, while the other guy gets 3 days for it! I get 6 for making life easier for myself on the school's sucky computer system? The BS flag waved in my head, but what can I do? I'm just a student in the 10th grade. Fortunately for me, my parents sided with me on this one. They talked to my administrator, which didn't help. Then they talked to the principal, which got me a 'more than generous' reduction of the suspension to 4 days. Yeah, sure, whatever. My mom has also sent a letter to the school board superintendent, because the only thing we've been able to get out of the high school administration is the rule book shoved in our faces. And really, based on the rule book, I still did nothing wrong. Do they care? No. I'm good with computers, and so they fear me. But whatever. My problem with them is that they apparently had written down 'strikes one and two' with my other shortcuts. Remember the ones in March? The first shortcut to the C;\ drive was their reasoning for removing my whole folder from the server. That's fine, if not a bit overkill, but they never told me. All they really did was recreate the problem which caused me to make the shortcut in the first place: a missing folder.

In the end, the whole thing has been pointless. I've been getting my schoolwork from my teachers, doing it at home (in much less time that it would take to do at school), and playing video games. My parents have been getting the administrators to stop playing word games with the word 'malicious', and my permanent record now says 'computer misuse'. Fair enough, aside from the ludicrous suspension length.

I must say, though, if your parents are on your side, being suspended is definitely not bad. I've got more done this week than I have in the previous month, and I've made real progress in my trumpet playing, as well as in most of my videogames. Even most of the teachers and students at the high school (and even the middle school I used to go to, somehow) have been astounded at the level of punishment used in my case. In my mind, I came out of this one the victor: Josh-1, Administration-0.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Hoags » Tue May 06, 2008 3:32 pm UTC

Yeouch, that sucks man. You can add one more to the list of people who think they're totally overreacting. At least your record doesn't look as bad now, and you can count it as a 4 day "holiday" from that bunch of fools.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Robin S » Tue May 06, 2008 3:41 pm UTC

I have some personal experience of administrative and bureaucratic stupidity: my school gave me a Saturday detention (a few of which can lead to an expulsion) - or was it two Saturday detentions? - for repeated absence, lateness, and missing deadlines due to diagnosed clinical depression, and it looked like they would have expelled me if my parents and people from my hospital hadn't stepped in. Meanwhile, my sister was expelled from her school because of a combination of exaggeration on the part of her schoolmates and extremely poor communication on the part of staff members, relating to a bullying incident of which she was the victim. See also this thread. Conclusion: a lot of people are either stubborn, stupid, downright bastards, or a combination of the three, and those people seem to be drawn to bureaucracy.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby rrwoods » Tue May 06, 2008 7:23 pm UTC

Send 'em a letter apologizing for fighting the suspension so hard -- after all, being suspended has been better for you anyway, right?
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Robin S » Tue May 06, 2008 7:43 pm UTC

I disagree with this, if it was meant seriously - the only possible consequence I can imagine is that they will be less disinclined to repeat that sort of thing in future.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Tue May 06, 2008 8:23 pm UTC

Is there a route of appeal?

If there isn't, you have just learned the lesson: rules on paper don't matter, what matters is how the laws are enforced by those with power.

In such an environment, being "in the in" with those with power is more important than being "in the right".

They don't have to fear you to punish you. They don't even have to dislike you to punish you.

You'll notice that your punishment was dealt with as a negotiating point, and power was used relative to the existing state -- the matter of fact wasn't important, because there isn't much reason for the administrators to care about the facts of the case or the details of the rules.

If there is a channel of appeal, procedural gymnastics might pull it off: strikes one and two where not communicated to the student (but they could just lie and say they where, you have no way to prove otherwise). You could also try to point out that what you did wasn't malicious. Even here, a lot depends on the nature of the appeal process.

What is worse? There are still people with power. If they decide that these actions annoyed them, they can simply start throwing the book at you. There are probably enough ambiguous rules in there to screw you completely over: the fact is, they have power, and you lack it. If you don't treat them with the respect that they think that they deserve, they could get angry with you.

I suspect that you have currently experienced the annoyance of a single person with limited power over you. So there are risks if you try to follow the "I will contest your power" route.

Options:
1> You could try to contest their power.
2> You could try building allies among those with power in the establishment. Even a mere teacher on your side is helpful.
3> You could decide to disengage from those with evil and power. Find another school.
4> You could hunker down and ignore it, avoiding the attention from those with power until you can break free of the institution.
5> The story as told might not be accurate, in which case any advice I give you based on it will be flawed.

Good luck.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby hobbesmaster » Tue May 06, 2008 11:02 pm UTC

Really, the only way out of a school system's stupidity is to involve lawyers... and thats generally not good for everyone involved.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby The Ethos » Wed May 07, 2008 5:53 pm UTC

If you did this at work in the real world (access a 'restricted' server part), you could be fired w.out warning, and have no recourse. Right to Work state, indeed.

So....yeah. It sucks. You (and I) know you're in the right, but the fact of the matter is, life lesson, no?

You can write the cleverest hack in the world, they may even incorporate it, but you can still be fired.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby <(bLYaUn)> » Thu May 08, 2008 2:17 am UTC

I feel your pain J Spade. My school district is lucky enough to give out Macbooks to each student in high school. As you can imagine, the laptops are filled with as many restrictions as possible. This hasn't stopped me and my other buddies, who are interested in computers, in finding a generous amount of loopholes and, more recently, the admin password :twisted: . Unsurprisingly, a couple of days later and everyone and their grandmothers had unblocked access to the internet and any application. Someone eventually ratted out one my friends and he got suspended 5 days, out of school. I really didn't feel that the punishment fit the crime, especially that this suspension affects his permanent record now and will give him trouble when he applies for college. Also, our school pays for a full time "tech team". Shouldn't these trained, professionals be able to stop something like this from happening in the first place? If I were them, I would be very, very embarrassed that a mere freshman had outsmarted me.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby bieber » Thu May 08, 2008 3:15 am UTC

<(bLYaUn)> wrote:I feel your pain J Spade. My school district is lucky enough to give out Macbooks to each student in high school. As you can imagine, the laptops are filled with as many restrictions as possible. This hasn't stopped me and my other buddies, who are interested in computers, in finding a generous amount of loopholes and, more recently, the admin password :twisted: . Unsurprisingly, a couple of days later and everyone and their grandmothers had unblocked access to the internet and any application. Someone eventually ratted out one my friends and he got suspended 5 days, out of school. I really didn't feel that the punishment fit the crime, especially that this suspension affects his permanent record now and will give him trouble when he applies for college. Also, our school pays for a full time "tech team". Shouldn't these trained, professionals be able to stop something like this from happening in the first place? If I were them, I would be very, very embarrassed that a mere freshman had outsmarted me.

You're kidding, right? There's no such thing as security when you've got god-only-knows how many immature high school kids with nothing better to do than try to "hack the system" with physical access to the machines 24/7. My school had a similar program, and I did shit like this my freshman year too. Ended up getting a Saturday school because I used the (as usual widely publicized) admin password to change a trackpad setting. Admittedly retarded on the part of the administration, but looking back, I realize we were all pretty much idiots for caring that much in the first place, let alone making a big deal about it and spreading the password all over the place...

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby nyeguy » Thu May 08, 2008 4:32 am UTC

I would probably just pop a Linux disk in and install that on a separate partition. Keep the goods on that, and log into OS X if someone is to check it/could report you for it.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby BlackSails » Thu May 08, 2008 1:21 pm UTC

My school at one time disconnected all the mice from the computers, and forced us to sign them out.

I decided it was retarded to wait in line for 5 minutes to check my email (they tried to block all email, but I used webmail from my father's server). I broke into the control panel and enabled the numpad-as-mouse-thing. I got in trouble for it, because I didnt sign out a mouse.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Thu May 08, 2008 5:36 pm UTC

I stole the admin password, hacked up the system, took over the network, etc.

I didn't get in trouble. Because... the sysadmin(s) liked me. And my worst crimes (trojan login password sniffers) didn't get caught.

That's it. If those with power like you, your situation is vastly different than if they don't. The rules on paper do not matter, in a fundamental sense: paper is just paper. What matters is human actions by human people, and human decisions about what to do.

Appealing to the point where the contents of the rules matter is usually not worth the cost for anything other than an extreme case. This is true in many many many parts of life, not just in high school.

And don't be too harsh about the sysadmin. He's paid crap, so he can't expect to be a genius, and securing a system is far far far far harder than breaking into a system. Securing a system enough that intrusions are detected is far easier, and effective if you have the power to punish those who violate the rules.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Master Gunner » Thu May 08, 2008 8:45 pm UTC

I have an old small Logitech mouse that I keep in my book bag for when I don't like the school mice, I have Firefox on my flash drive so I don't have to use IE, and I can get into gmail by using https, or just use my school-provided email (keeping emails in sub-folders allows me to circumvent the size limitations). Other than that, my school doesn't really have any restrictions on the internet, and basic ones on the individual computers (all settings are reset upon logout). I haven't tried to access the network yet, but I really have no reason to do so.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Blipo » Thu May 08, 2008 9:36 pm UTC

A while back, I found I could email the entire teaching staff at a given school in the district, through the school's website - the district Sysadmins were building some sort of 'homework helper' site; they had it live while they were still working on it. It could be accessed by going through a few boring pages. Log in with your school ID and select an option along the lines of 'Email about this', open the Address Book, and check 'Send to All' to select all the teaching staff. I sent a few emails one night, and then forgot about it. There wasn't anything really interesting.

Three days later, my school login stopped working. When I went and asked the school admin about it - he told me that they'd "traced the emails" back to me, and that my account had been disabled. Excellent detective work, considering I sent them with my school ID in the From: field. I was told to expect to hear from my vice principal that day. Sure enough, I was called down to his office during last block. He went on and on for fifteen minutes. I was smart enough to turn on the recorder on my palm pilot - the whole the thing is comedy gold.

He found out I had recorded him, eventually, and told me recording a person without consent was a privacy invasion and could land me in jail. =D Welcome to Canada.

Our school admin incompetent - all he knows how to do is use basic software apps to administer the network; he has to bring in a district tech to fix any hardware issues. All the school computers have some brilliant BIOS hack that prevents me booting to USB, even though I can select it in the config menu. He didn't know what BIOS was.

'We have some serious concerns about the emails you sent.' 'What was so concerning?' 'Well, first of all, that you chose to send them.'

'So the fact that you chose to email them I have a problem with, because it wasn't a productive thing, done for the sake of something constructive.'


The great thing was that he wouldn't believe it was done only out of curiosity - he was sure it was malicious. <3 my VP.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Thu May 08, 2008 10:06 pm UTC

Blipo wrote:He found out I had recorded him, eventually, and told me recording a person without consent was a privacy invasion and could land me in jail. =D Welcome to Canada.


I'm less certain. For private purposes, recording a communication that one party is aware of is legal in Canada I think...

Micro-research:
http://www.privacylawyer.ca/blog/2006/0 ... thout.html
(that is telephone communication, but I wouldn't expect a greater expectation of privacy in personal communication.)
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Blipo » Thu May 08, 2008 10:42 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Blipo wrote:He found out I had recorded him, eventually, and told me recording a person without consent was a privacy invasion and could land me in jail. =D Welcome to Canada.


I'm less certain. For private purposes, recording a communication that one party is aware of is legal in Canada I think...

Micro-research:
http://www.privacylawyer.ca/blog/2006/0 ... thout.html
(that is telephone communication, but I wouldn't expect a greater expectation of privacy in personal communication.)


Yes, I know - that's what amused me.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Strilanc » Fri May 09, 2008 3:53 am UTC

I have a big problem with this type of situation. Adding artificial barriers then whining when someone (trivially) gets around them (for a valid purpose) pisses me off.

I'd probably be writing something that would get me suspended for a lot longer. I don't think I'd end up using it, though. It would definitely help me feel better. Like punching a punching bag and pretending it's your networking guy.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Mr. Freeman » Fri May 09, 2008 7:04 am UTC

The Ethos wrote:If you did this at work in the real world (access a 'restricted' server part), you could be fired w.out warning, and have no recourse. Right to Work state, indeed.


It seems to me that there are contractual issues associated with computer use at the office. If your contract or some other policy that you sign says you aren't allowed to do something and then you go ahead and do it, you'll probably be fired. But if it isn't specified in your contract or other accepted use policy (as apparently, what spade did wasn't in the rule book) I think they could run into legal problems if they tried to fire you without warning.


Anyway, I have this theory. Schools will wise up, hire some competent help, and create effective computer restrictions only when their incompetence severely interferes with the operation of the school. For example, if students start changing their name to DROP TABLE "STUDENTS"--; (or whatever it is), or wiping everything they can find when they gain unauthorized access, or changing grades like none other (every single student pass, or every single student fail), then and only then will schools figure out how freaking stupid it is to put this information into electronic form when they know that they have a ton of students trying to break in. Of course, I'm not advocating doing any of this, but I think that this has to happen for anything to change. Until then, we will have to put up with incompetent system administrators and computers restricted enough to make them worthless but not enough to keep them secure.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Fri May 09, 2008 2:45 pm UTC

Mr. Freeman wrote:Anyway, I have this theory. Schools will wise up, hire some competent help, and create effective computer restrictions only when their incompetence severely interferes with the operation of the school. For example, if students start changing their name to DROP TABLE "STUDENTS"--; (or whatever it is),


... they will probably kick that child out of the school. And they can probably get a judge to agree with it.

or wiping everything they can find when they gain unauthorized access,


Criminal charges.

or changing grades like none other (every single student pass, or every single student fail),


Criminal charges.

then and only then will schools figure out how freaking stupid it is to put this information into electronic form when they know that they have a ton of students trying to break in.


At best, they'll build an isolated network in locked rooms only, and make the teacher's lives really really annoying. That's much cheaper than building strong security. Meanwhile, students who aren't being destructive will have their education made worse, as more resources are thrown at dealing with the destructive students.

Of course, I'm not advocating doing any of this, but I think that this has to happen for anything to change. Until then, we will have to put up with incompetent system administrators and computers restricted enough to make them worthless but not enough to keep them secure.


They aren't worthless: they are harder to use, and especially harder to use in strange ways. The point of the crappy security isn't to prevent you from doing it -- it is to make you aware that there are things you aren't supposed to be doing on it.

If they disabled the "Run" menu in task manager, that means you aren't supposed to run arbitrary commands. If they removed the command prompt anywhere, that means you aren't supposed to run the command prompt. Etc etc.

Many people ignore these social cues asto what is appropriate and what isn't. And most schools, set up in an authoritarian way, responds to people breaking the rules of the school with punishment. By the time you have made the principle spend time on you, personally, you have already sucked up more resources from the principle than your legitimate share -- so the principle responds with "punish anyone who did something that can be considered even vaguely wrong who is brought to my attention".

The alternative to that kind of response is hard -- because now you have students that don't mind being brought to the principles attention, and with (say) 2000 students, if each student is brought to the attention of the principle once per month, that's 100 students to deal with per day.

Presume that the principle already has 8 hours of work every day running the school without dealing with kids. At 15 minutes per student, including all appeals, that's 33 hours of work per work-day.

So the principle has to make "bringing a student to my attention" involve punishment, if only to discourage students from doing anything in that category of behavior.

(And yes, the load is often offloaded to the vice principle -- but that's 41 hours over 2 people per workday, with extremely brief interaction: not viable).

Smaller schools will have less of this problem, but it is still there.

The most practical defense against this is having the authority that you interact directly with not be out to get you. This matters more than following the rules by a huge margin.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Strilanc » Fri May 09, 2008 5:40 pm UTC

When they disable the run command that just means they want you to use shortcuts, or *gasp* open microsoft word, open the VBA editor, and type shell RUN_COMMAND_HERE in the immediate pane. If the computer is *really* locked down, you can always download a ready-made program at the school.

I understand your point is that there's an implied "you shouldn't do that". The problem is that these bogus security measures don't limit bad students, they limit good students. They are security theatre.

If you want to protect a school computer, use something like deep freeze. Then good students can do whatever the hell they want, and any local vandalism is fixed by a reboot.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Fri May 09, 2008 7:11 pm UTC

I understand your point is that there's an implied "you shouldn't do that". The problem is that these bogus security measures don't limit bad students, they limit good students. They are security theatre.


The security limits people who don't understand computers. The rules limit those who are willing to follow the rules.

Those who understand computers well enough to break the security, but not well enough to be undetected at it, and aren't willing to follow the rules out of their own choice, get caught. If they lack sufficient charisma to convince the immediate authority figures to not punish them, they get punished. The "higher up" the authority figure they are dealing with, typically the worse the punishment.

It is true that the incompetent don't have the opportunity to break the rules. The obedient choose not to. The highly competent don't get caught. The sufficiently charismatic and friendly with authority don't get punished.

It is the middlingly competent, disobedient, and unfriendly with authority figures who get caught and punished.

This, however, only leaves the overly competent and disobedient, and the middling competent, disobedient, authority figure friendly as the set of people who "get away with it" really.

In short: I see little reason for a school to bother investing in real security. All they need is enough security to notice when a student is breaking the rules, and then punish them. They don't need to make following the rules a matter of laws of physics. Just because a door is unlocked or it has a crappy lock, doesn't mean that going in is permitted.

(PS: every mechanical key lock is a crappy lock, pretty much. Picking physical locks is often easier than bypassing bad computer security. And life isn't fair to people who choose to move outside of the herd: leaving the herd for the sake of leaving the herd is often a bad idea.)
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Mr. Beck » Fri May 09, 2008 9:43 pm UTC

[quote="Yak]The rules on paper do not matter, in a fundamental sense: paper is just paper. What matters is human actions by human people, and human decisions about what to do.[/quote]
Sigg'd!
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Mr. Freeman » Sat May 10, 2008 6:15 am UTC

Yakk wrote:In short: I see little reason for a school to bother investing in real security. All they need is enough security to notice when a student is breaking the rules, and then punish them.


And when a student breaks the rules and wipes every single grade off of the server? Or obtains access to an administrator's email account and sends porn-filled emails to every parent?
Poor security for the point of saying "you aren't supposed to do this" is marginally more effective than simply writing a list of prohibited actions and taping it to the computer.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Sat May 10, 2008 2:20 pm UTC

Mr. Freeman wrote:
Yakk wrote:In short: I see little reason for a school to bother investing in real security. All they need is enough security to notice when a student is breaking the rules, and then punish them.

And when a student breaks the rules and wipes every single grade off of the server? Or obtains access to an administrator's email account and sends porn-filled emails to every parent?
Poor security for the point of saying "you aren't supposed to do this" is marginally more effective than simply writing a list of prohibited actions and taping it to the computer.


Then the student goes to jail? It isn't as if the students before computers couldn't have snuck into the school and burned it down, a far worse act. Or break into the office and steal all of the grades. Etc etc.

To make this clear: grades are not that important, and they can be reconstituted with effort. There are far far far worse things that students can do in general. There are far far far worse things that people can do with computers.

Sure, destroying, B&E to look at someone elses, or stealing grades deserves jail time. But just because something is serious enough to throw you in jail doesn't mean that it is worth spending anything more than a token effort securing. Nearly every lock is merely a token effort -- it takes a half-skilled person less than 5 minutes to pick a lock, and they can get it down to 2 with practice on that lock type, and even less if they have non-improvised tools.

Society runs on the presumption that people won't be destructive idiots. Society doesn't prevent you from doing things wrong, it instead detects when you do and locks you up after the fact. There are far too many things that would have to be secured to stop all wrong doing.

So either learn how to censor your own behavior, or be utterly fucked.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Strilanc » Sat May 10, 2008 8:22 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Mr. Freeman wrote:
Yakk wrote:In short: I see little reason for a school to bother investing in real security. All they need is enough security to notice when a student is breaking the rules, and then punish them.

And when a student breaks the rules and wipes every single grade off of the server? Or obtains access to an administrator's email account and sends porn-filled emails to every parent?
Poor security for the point of saying "you aren't supposed to do this" is marginally more effective than simply writing a list of prohibited actions and taping it to the computer.


Then the student goes to jail? It isn't as if the students before computers couldn't have snuck into the school and burned it down, a far worse act. Or break into the office and steal all of the grades. Etc etc.

To make this clear: grades are not that important, and they can be reconstituted with effort. There are far far far worse things that students can do in general. There are far far far worse things that people can do with computers.

Sure, destroying, B&E to look at someone elses, or stealing grades deserves jail time. But just because something is serious enough to throw you in jail doesn't mean that it is worth spending anything more than a token effort securing. Nearly every lock is merely a token effort -- it takes a half-skilled person less than 5 minutes to pick a lock, and they can get it down to 2 with practice on that lock type, and even less if they have non-improvised tools.

Society runs on the presumption that people won't be destructive idiots. Society doesn't prevent you from doing things wrong, it instead detects when you do and locks you up after the fact. There are far too many things that would have to be secured to stop all wrong doing.

So either learn how to censor your own behavior, or be utterly fucked.


I think you're missing the point. OP didn't do anything bad, he just used a workaround to get his work done.

When the punishments start hitting people who haven't even done wrong, you need to start questioning them. Irrelevant of whether or not they are the rules. Rules don't define morality.

We don't arrest people for buying books about lock-picking, or having lock-picking tools, or for lock-picking (e.g. your own locks). We arrest people who break into houses.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Sat May 10, 2008 11:58 pm UTC

We do, however, arrest people who lock pick into a house or place of business just to look around, even if they don't take anything.

Or who jimmy the lock of a fence.

C:\ was blocked. It was intended that you not have low level access to it. Sure the lock sucked -- it was easy to jimmy open -- but that computer wasn't yours. When you are using property that isn't yours, it is considered "right" to follow the rules, intentions and guildlines of those who own it.

The response was massive overkill, but it is within the rights of a school sysadmin to dictate what can be done on the computer system. If you lack the social credit to break the rules, when you break the rules of an authority figure, you can be screwed.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Mr. Freeman » Sun May 11, 2008 10:21 am UTC

You could send the kid to jail and then spend a huge amount of time and effort, or you could spend a reasonable amount of money up front and get a decent security policy. (Or a decent physical security system)

It will cost a huge amount more money to retrieve and rebuild grades than it will to secure the system in the first place. When you take into account the overtime that teachers will be putting in to get grades back up, the overtime administration will be putting in to take care of parents, the amount of overtime the sysadmins will be putting in, and in the case of private schools the number of parents that will pull their kids from school and the loss of future students, etc. And that's only if the situation is contained to the school server. Sending porn-filled emails from a school administrator's account will more than likely result in lawsuits. Not to mention that after this happens, they'll buy a decent security system anyway. You'd have to be an idiot not to, just like you'd have to be an idiot not to replace a lock that someone picked already.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Yakk » Sun May 11, 2008 4:09 pm UTC

Mr. Freeman wrote:You could send the kid to jail and then spend a huge amount of time and effort, or you could spend a reasonable amount of money up front and get a decent security policy. (Or a decent physical security system)


Few children actually hack a system to the level that they need to go to jail.

It will cost a huge amount more money to retrieve and rebuild grades than it will to secure the system in the first place.


Which, if they had equal probability of happening, would be a good point!

When you take into account the overtime that teachers will be putting in to get grades back up, the overtime administration will be putting in to take care of parents, the amount of overtime the sysadmins will be putting in, and in the case of private schools the number of parents that will pull their kids from school and the loss of future students, etc. And that's only if the situation is contained to the school server. Sending porn-filled emails from a school administrator's account will more than likely result in lawsuits. Not to mention that after this happens, they'll buy a decent security system anyway. You'd have to be an idiot not to, just like you'd have to be an idiot not to replace a lock that someone picked already.


Ok, let's make this clear. Nearly every single lock you have ever seen in your entire life takes less than 10 minutes to pick by an amateur. Windows are trivial to break into. Most cars can have their doors jimmied in seconds.

The cost to secure everything to the level that they cannot be attacked is ridiculously high. So what happens?

Things that contain lots of easy to fence things get higher security.

Things that contain extremely important things get higher security.

School grades? The mailing list of a school's parent's email addresses? These are not that important.

Not only is the damage very limited if they are damaged, but the chance that someone would attack it is pretty damn low (compared to, say, a bank, a corner store's cash box, etc).

And yes, in the low chance that someone hacks into the computer system and sends out penis jokes to the school email list and manages to delete every student grade, then at that school more money is likely to be spent on security, and there will be some resources spent on fixing the damage.

And the person who did it will be tossed in jail and punished.

But the chance of that happening is low. It takes someone with both the dedication to learn how to hack into the system, and crappy enough impulse control to think it is a good idea. Someone with that bad impulse control is reasonably likely to end up in prison anyhow (no, I'm not kidding -- if you cannot learn to control your own behavior, you are seriously fucked).

The world does not work according to the maxim of "anything you can do, you may do". I'm aware that one can spend resources to make a computer system more secure -- and if you are protecting something that is worth more than crap all, it might be a good idea. But your system will never be perfectly secure -- security is about making systems "secure enough", a cost benefit ratio problem.

So:
The school who doesn't secure it's student network, and relies on rules to dictate what students are allowed to do, isn't doing something horrid.

The school should, generally, secure whatever system it uses for marks to a slightly higher degree. But such a system is usually only as secure as the dumbest teacher...

If you are going to break/skirt the rules, the way to get away with it is either (A) be skilled enough that your breaking of the rules isn't noticed (which is far harder than you think, because any one mistake can trip you up), or (B) have sufficient charisma/influence/etc with the authorities in question that you won't get in trouble for not-explicitly-destructive rule breaking, or (C) be willing to risk "MAD" (mutually assured destruction) style tactics, and lawyer-up.
One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision - BR

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Osirius » Sun May 11, 2008 9:32 pm UTC

I hear you on the paranoid administrators. The internet was not working on one of the library computers, IE, mu Comp, etc. So I opened the command promt and did the basic ping http://www.google.com command, just to see if the internet was connected.

I have no advanced or even intermediate computer hacking skills. I only know how to streamline the memory allotment and a few commands.

The admin sees me from across the library and swoops down upon me like a bat out of hell. " WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!?!"
Seeing if the internet worked. See, watch this command. You can use it to see if the internet is connected
" Really? huh. cool. Sorry, I though you were uploading a virus."

It turned out someone HAD put a virus on the computer before I got there, and it was messing with the internet.

So true about being friends with the tech admin. Youtube and laptop cart passwords galore.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Doug52392 » Wed May 14, 2008 11:25 pm UTC

At my high school,the tech guys go out of their way to make sure you can do nothing on their computers. I get SO annoyed about it! They use the Group Policy settings to literally block out everything on Windows XP. They set everyone in the building to mandatory roaming profiles, set them to Windows Classic, and set it up to look like Windows 2000. Now heres where the frustration begins. They:

Completely lock down the desktop and Windows Explorer. No changing the screen resolution (which is difficult on some computers that have small monitors because it's so hard to see), they turned off the ability to right-click on the Taskbar (wtf is that for), no personalizing anything, the Start menu and programs are all deleted, so all you see when you click Start is Programs, etc. And guess what the Explorer looks like? There's no FILE menu! Sometimes it's set to Classic mode, where you single click and it opens a folder in a new window, so by the time I get to a document I'm looking for, I have 10 explorer windows open, which is annoying as hell!

Necessary tools locked. They blocked the damn Task Manager! So when the computer locks up (which happens frequently) you either have to wait it out or reboot the computer, because you can't press Ctrl+Alt+Del or Ctrl+Alt+Excape! They blocked all .exe, .pif, .bat, .vbs, .php, even certain .ppt files from being run!!!!!!!

Filesystems locked down. We can only write to C:\Temp on the C: drive. We get NO access to the other partition (D:). We only have 100mb of space on the Server! I frequently run out of room on the server with that quota, so I end up deleting stuff

Internet censorship. They use the Sonicwall Internet censorer on our school network, so almost 50% of the Internet is blocked. This gets very frustrating, because they have lapses of stupidity and block stuff for no reason. Like when I tried going to a Linux site, they blocked it for "Adult Content"! WTF? They block all domain names with words like "games", "videogames", or stuff like that. They block words from Google searches! You search GIRL, and it blocks it!

I have a copy of the Group Policy data (I copied the contents of the Windows Server 2003 domain controller's \SYSVOL folder, so I have all the GP data with all the blocks on it), maybe I'll upload it here. To show my point on how rediciolous the locks were, I sent the list of settings enabled in our Group Policy to EVERY printer in the building (it was about 10 pages lol)

Of course, like every school, all I needed to do to bypass all that was put a Linux LiveCD into the CD tray and boot off that (it works to, I tried this 10 times in the past year, although I'm sure the admin noticed on his packet sniffer logs those new browser headers from a Linux OS :)

The sad thing though, is that due to a "budget crisis", my high school fired all but 2 IT people to manage the computers at a high school with 2,000 kids, plus EVERY elementary and middle school in the district. 2 people manage about 10,000 computers! The fact that they lock out EVERYTHING means they constantly have to fix stuff that we could fix on our own, wasting time. I tried talking to them about this, but they said that stuff is there to protect the computers.... not their time!

When I was in middle school, which was when I became a huge computer geek, when I was in the 7th grade, I noticed that the administrator incorrectly set the security permissions on the server that has the student and teacher documents on it - including every gradebook. I found out everyone had read access to EVERY student and teacher's documents! (btw there was a way to get write access). As fate would have it, the day I found this out, this really annoying kid (my arch nemesis), noticed me on the computer with folders labeled STUDENTDATA, \\MAINFRAME, Gradebook 1.grd, open on my screen, he told my teacher, who got SOOO mad at me I thought he was going to expel me :0 But I just told them what was wrong with the computer, how to fix it, and they let me off the hook (however, they banned me from using the computers anywhere in the building besides the library and computer room until I left middle school a year later). I never looked at the grades or opened anything (the only thing I opened was some sports file a gym teacher had to see if I could really read the data), but they had to have people recalculate my grades to make sure they were right :)

And as for unconstitutional suspensions and expulsions, being a politically involved liberal, I can say this: if they were to EVER suspend or expel me for a stupid reason, I will make sure that the principals face is on the 5 o' clock news under the title "SCHOOL PRINCIPAL SUSPENDS STUDENT FOR <whatever I did or did not do>", and call the ACLU (which is what my best friend did when he was almost expelled for making a comment on a movie a teacher interpreted as a "threat to bomb London"

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby MrEff » Thu May 15, 2008 6:02 am UTC

I agree with yakk. You don't get to choose your own consequences, only your actions. People will let you slide, and slide, and then hit you with an extreme overreaction. This is human nature and you should absolutely expect it. Also consider a meta-argument: if your school administrators were any intelligent, why would they be working for a tiny public salary? They aren't and they wouldn't. You might as well explain the futility of access restrictions to your dog--a fair judgement is simply not within their power.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby timt » Thu May 15, 2008 6:36 am UTC

You know the only way to go, simple wipe the server when you get back to school. You've already served your punishment.

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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby apricity » Thu May 15, 2008 3:30 pm UTC

MrEff wrote:Also consider a meta-argument: if your school administrators were any intelligent, why would they be working for a tiny public salary? They aren't and they wouldn't. You might as well explain the futility of access restrictions to your dog--a fair judgement is simply not within their power.

Some people like to work in schools. Some people come from different jobs into schools for a change of pace. People are individuals with different situations. Clearly a fair judgment of them is simply not within your power.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Sudo-Fu » Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:40 pm UTC

Well. This is the first summer that I've really gotten interested in computer security and (if you must call it that) hacking, and I've spent a fair amount of time stocking up on portable flash drive apps/ boot sector, live CD's, sudo commands, shell scripts, etc for use on my school computer. As low as I think the odds of anyone in my school's pathetic (one-man) IT dept catching on, based on your story, I will definitely proceed to NOT carry any of said plans through. I wouldn't mind a suspension, but a line on a permanent record would not be appreciated in the admissions department of any of my possible future colleges...

Come to think of it, I've already done most of what you got in trouble for. Damn. If anybody tries to call me down to the VP's office next year, I'm just gonna make a break for it and run to Canada.
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Re: I have no faith in my school administration.

Postby Sasha » Tue Aug 05, 2008 3:58 am UTC

Quite a while ago, when the school's security was crap, I logged on as the Vice Principal and loaded up the "remotely monitor/control computers" thing. I goatse'd the principal and locked down his computer.

Eat that.

Also going to try some things from a library book I got: Steal This Computer Book 3.
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