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School computer hacker escapes jail

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A student convicted of hacking the computer system of his high school has received a 12-month community order.

Southampton University student Matthew Higgins, 20, formerly a pupil at the school Eirias High in Colwyn Bay, was charged with gaining unauthorized access to the school’s system in March 2011, and attempting to do so again two months later. Higgins has also been sentenced to 120 hours of unpaid work.

Higgins gained access by posing as the parent of a female pupil, requesting the password for the parental portal from the teacher in charge of the computer system. After he was provided with it, data about the pupil was acquired and placed on a separate website. Two months later Higgins attempted this again, posing as the mother of a different girl. At this point the teacher became suspicious and verified with the parent that the request was fake.

While Higgins denies accessing the girl’s details, prosecutor Owen Edwards accused him of “attempting to portray himself as a victim”, and recorder Catherine Brown expressed concern at his failure to take responsibility, stating that: “It is a matter of concern that continue to deny taking responsibilities for your actions.”

Describing the crime as a “clumsy and wholly inappropriate” attempt to get the attention of a girl, Brown considered that Higgins had been trying to seek revenge and humiliate the school after the supposed poor response to bullying he received there. She added “You thought that you would not be caught but you were wrong about that.”

While Brown described the crime as serious, she suggested that the sentence, a community order with supervision, would allow Higgins to receive help in addressing health issues that he clearly had. She also added that the case may serve as a push for the school to address security concerns with their computer system.

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