USC vote hacker to be charged criminally

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—With files from Gloria Dickie

London police intend to charge Keith Horwood, the Western alumni who claimed he was behind the hack that shut down the University Students’ Council vote site earlier this week, with a criminal offence, according to campus police.

“I don’t know how many charges will be laid,” Elgin Austen, director of campus police, said. “London police are also involved in this occurrence, so they’ll be the ones who will decide what the charges are. We conducted the investigation, but because it took place on-campus [and] off-campus, London Police are involved.”

Austen said the investigation has been ongoing and while they had a handful of suspects, police had honed in on Horwood before he released his confession video this morning and had asked him to turn himself in, or else he would have been arrested.

“His view is that he was trying to be helpful. Consequently, we do not agree with his view that he was trying to be helpful, he actually caused quite a lot of damage.”

He noted Horwood could still be arrested and the case will likely go to trial.

Earlier today, the Gazette spoke with Horwood in an exclusive interview.

“I talked to [campus police] at at 7 a.m. this morning,” he said, adding he hadn’t slept in 24 hours due to the stress of coming forward.

“I’m at a friend’s house, I had a beer to celebrate that I wasn’t immediately charged,” he said, with a nervous laugh.

“I’m being an insomniac right now, I suppose.”

Horwood has agreed to speak with the Gazette again this afternoon, “so I can get a few hours of nap time in.”

Horwood, a graduate of Western with a double major in biology and biochemistry, tweeted a video to USC president Andrew Forgione earlier this morning, revealing himself as the hacker and apologizing.

“I do respect his courage to come forward into the public eye,” Forgione said, but added students may not be as forgiving.

“From the feedback I have received on Twitter, I doubt students will be on his side. He still cost the USC thousands of dollars, and made 68 candidates have to think about campaigning over their reading week instead of relax, even with the blackout period in effect. ”

USC presidential candidate Adam Fearnall responded to the video saying he didn’t believe Horwood thought of all the people who would be affected by the hack, but that he did appreciate that he came forward.

“In the end, it doesn’t really matter who the hacker is, all that matters is that the democratic process has another chance to succeed and all of the candidates are ready to give it another shot,” Fearnall said.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on February 14, unauthorized changes began appearing on the USC vote website, including the text “a vote for Bieber is a vote for world peace,” and a poll on Justin Bieber’s haircut.

In the video, Horwood claimed he was not attempting to be malicious but saw a flaw in the system and wanted to see if he could do anything with it. By the time he was in, the damage was done. Clad in a hoodie and framed by a line of empty liquor bottles, he made an apology to all the candidates for his actions and promised to turn himself in.

 


More to come as this story develops.

Kaleigh Rogers

Kaleigh Rogers

Kaleigh is the Multimedia Director for Volume 105 of the Gazette. She is currently pursuing a MA degree in Journalism and holds a BA in Honors English with a minor in Creative Writing.
Kaleigh Rogers

Latest posts by Kaleigh Rogers (see all)

  • Greg

    Western ITS has been able to verify that the attacks were happening over a period that exceeded 9 continuous hours, showing at least intent to exploit, justifying that criminal charges be laid (see comment from Jeff Gardiner on LFPress page: http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/03/02/19451446.html).
    Accessing any computer system without authorization (no matter how the person does it), is illegal. So, what this person has done does fit the charges that have now been laid (as of March 2, 2012).

  • Greg

    Thanks to all the people showing interest in this issue. I would like to clarify a few things, however, that seem to be lacking..
    Accessing any computer system without authorization (and yes, modifying a web page is included in this, no matter how the person does it), is illegal. So, what this person has done does fit the charges that have now been laid (as of March 2, 2012).
    Western ITS has been able to verify that the attacks were happening over a period that exceeded 9 continuous hours, showing at least a modicum of intent to exploit, further justifying that criminal charges be laid (see comment from Jeff Gardiner on LFPress page: http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/03/02/19451446.html).

  • Kris

    Now the real question: Since the vulnerability has been here for quite some time, how many of the previous presidents won by merit, and not because someone hacked the system and changed the votes? :)

    If this guy had mailed Western’s admin, want to take a guess how many years it would’ve taken to fix the problem?

  • Kris

    This is the only organization in the world, that would charge someone for exposing such a security vulnerability in such an obvious way. If he had wanted to cause malicious harm, he would have just adjusted the votes, in a way no one would have realized.

    You morons have got to be kidding me. You should tell him “thank you”, and let it be.

  • Gwen

    Arrested for what, exactly? The online equivalent of graffiti?

  • U

    Kaleigh, what did you gain from talking about how the scene is framed by a line of alcohol? Way to stay classy as a journalist by defaming a guy who clearly knows he’s wrong by now. Yeah, he’s a fool for doing so and he’ll get punishment (albeit jail/criminal charges are way too serious), but you’ve shown the inability to report from an objective point of view and kicking him while he’s on the ground. Good one.

  • JD

    @Andrew

    Agreed. He’s obviously an idiot and that’s just kicking him while he’s down.

  • Sean

    Awe, someone voted me down for stating a fact. How sad.

  • http://memesaredope.com Meeks

    ITS couldn’t enforce the basic of security practises… so lets throw the kid in jail?
    where do “hackers” or “sql queryers” go anyway.. cyberjail?

  • Sean

    I don’t see any point in the campaigning over reading week. Most people are gone. Those who are going to vote will vote, those who only voted the first time because they were told to, won’t vote. So honestly I don’t see the point in extra campaigning and spending more money. It’s not going to change much and it makes more sense to enjoy their reading weeks. Those who decide to do the extra campaigning to me just look ridiculous and are wasting their time.

  • C

    He still cost the USC thousands of dollars

    Please itemize these elections costs. Is ITS charging four figures for use of one machine for a couple of days?

    think about campaigning over their reading week instead of relax, even with the blackout period in effect

    Teams aren’t allowed to talk to each other about the campaign during this blackout period. Why should they worry, mate?

    I am worried about the referenda reaching quorum (20%, per s 17.07 of by-law #2 (pdf). But my gut feeling (i.e. no research) is that a typical referendum question receives more support (pass or fail) than any one candidate–so I’m done worrying now.

  • C

    >>He still cost the USC thousands of dollars<>think about campaigning over their reading week instead of relax, even with the blackout period in effect<<
    Teams aren’t allowed to talk to each other about the campaign during this blackout period. Why should they worry, mate?

    I am worried about the referenda reaching quorum (20%, per s 17.07 of by-law #2 (pdf). But my gut feeling (i.e. no research) is that a typical referendum question receives more support (pass or fail) than any one candidate–so I’m done worrying now.

  • Alex

    To me this has become ridiculous. I don’t see how his conduct has affected anyone’s rights or how it could be deemed illegal and malicious. If it was easy enough for someone with no formal programming education to do this how are we sure that someone hasn’t already done this in past elections? To me this is simply a poorly coded election system that people are trying to dump the blame on him for this. I would understand some sort of punishment, but I would also like to think my alma mater wouldn’t essentially end my career oppourtunities it provided me over such a ridiculous thing.
    Yes he was stupid.
    Yes he should get in trouble.
    Why send a kid to jail for a problem within a universities election system, especially when he didn’t even attempt any malicious editing of ballots (if this aspect changes my viewpoint may as well).

  • Andrew

    The last sentence of this article seems completely unnecessary; noting that he was “framed” (because usually framing entails more than one side) by liquor bottles is irrelevant to the article and really just serves to unnecessarily discredit the guy, given the connotations of alcohol.

  • Logan Ross

    Ahahahah what a douche. He could have taken a hint from megaupload at least and hid in a cement panic room for a couple hours instead of just turning himself in. Gay.