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MANILA, Philippines - A student was expelled from a college in Montreal, Canada, after finding a flaw in the school's computer system that could potentially compromise the data of its 250,000 students, the National Post reports.
Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a 20-year-old computer science student and software development club member at Dawson College, found the compromising code while working on a mobile application to help students access their school accounts. Al-Khabaz and a colleague found "sloppy coding" in the Omnivox software that he says "left the personal information of thousands of students, including myself, vulnerable."
Al-Khabaz explained his reason for speaking up, saying, "I felt I had a moral duty to bring it to the attention of the college and help to fix it, which I did. I could have easily hidden my identity behind a proxy. I chose not to because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong."
Al-Khabaz and his colleague Ovidiu Mija met with Omnivox makers Skytech on Oct 24, 2012, who promised to fix the issue immediately. Two days later, Al-Khabaz tested if the issue persisted using a program called Acunetix, and was promptly contacted by Edouard Taza, president of Skytech.
Taza explained to Ahmed that he could go to jail for 6 to 12 months for what he did. Al-Khabaz adds that "if I didn’t agree to meet with him and sign a non-disclosure agreement he was going to call the RCMP and have me arrested. So I signed the agreement." Taza acknowledged the National Post's report and mentioned police and legal consequences. However, he denied making threats, suggesting Al-Khabaz misunderstood.
While Taza seemed to accept Al-Khabaz had no malicious intent, Dawson College felt differently. After faculty members met with the student, a 14-1 vote in favor of Al-Khabaz' expulsion followed.
Blaming the student
Regarding the occurrence, Ahmed Al-Khabaz seemed distraught.
“I was acing all of my classes, but now I have zeros across the board," he tells the National Post. "I can’t get into any other college because of these grades, and my permanent record shows that I was expelled for unprofessional conduct."
"In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster," explains Al-Khabaz. "Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else. I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it. For that I was expelled.”
Members of the Dawson College administration have not returned additional requests for comment, though Morgan Crockett, director of internal affairs and advocacy for the Dawson Student Union is more open with her criticism of the administration.
"It’s a travesty that Ahmad’s academic future has been compromised just so that Dawson and Skytech could save face,"says Crockett. She hopes the Dawson administration will reinstate Al-Khabaz and compensate him for the trouble, in addition to offering a public apology. - Rappler.com
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