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Students suspended for hacking Oxford network

Duo admits using tools found through Google to access information about students' computer use and see their e-mail passwords.

Two Oxford students have been suspended after admitting to gaining unauthorized access to the university's IT network.

Patrick Foster, 20, and Roger Waite, 21, claimed they had carried out the hack to expose security flaws. But at a disciplinary hearing Friday, it was decided that both students should be "rusticated," or suspended--Foster until May 2005 and Waite until January 2005.

The pair's actions came to light in May, when they wrote an article for The Oxford Student, a university newspaper, detailing their activities. They warned that using tools found through Google they had managed to view live CCTV footage, access information about the computer use of individual students and see their e-mail passwords.

Google has become a tool for hackers, who often use the popular search engine to turn up Web sites with vulnerabilities. For instance, intruders can sniff out default server page titles to find easily exploitable servers.

Foster admitted to seven charges--two of using university facilities for unlawful activity, two of gaining unauthorized access to the network, two of violating users' privacy, and one charge of wasting staff time by engaging them in activity unrelated to study.

Waite pleaded guilty to four charges, all related to the CCTV network--conspiring to breach an IT network, using facilities for an unlawful activity, gaining unauthorized access and wasting staff time.

There was no suggestion that either Foster or Waite had tried to cause any damage through the attack or achieve any financial gain.

The Oxford University proctors who investigated the incident reportedly have recommended that fines should be imposed. However, the panel of three Oxford fellows who conducted Friday's heading at the university's Court of Summary Jurisdiction decided to suspend the two students for what they deemed an attack on the university.

Foster, who is now the editor of The Oxford Student, has reportedly said that both he and Waite plan to appeal.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.