An eighth grade student in Holiday, Florida, has been charged with felony cybercrime after hacking into his school’s secure computer network in what he claims was merely a prank on a teacher he did not like.
Dominik Green, 14, was charged by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office with an offense against a computer system and unauthorized access, which is considered a felony.
Green logged onto Paul R. Smith Middle School’s network on March 31 using an administrative-level password without permission, Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
After gaining access, Green changed the background image on a teacher’s computer to one of two men kissing. He did not view or tamper with the encrypted 2014 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) questions stored on the computer.
"Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done," Nocco said.
In an interview with The Tampa Bay Times, Green said students would often access the administrative account to screen-share with their friends and use the computers' cameras to see one another. They were able to gain access easily because the password was a teacher’s last name. Green found out the password by watching the teacher type it in.
Green had previously been reprimanded for accessing the system inappropriately and received a three-day suspension. He said other students had also gotten in trouble for it at the time.
"If they would have notified me it was illegal, I wouldn't have done it in the first place," Green told WTSP. "But all they said was, 'You shouldn't be doing that.'"
When Green went to access the system on March 31, he initially logged in to a computer that did not have a camera but did have the FCAT files.
"So I logged out of that computer and logged into a different one and I logged into a teacher's computer who I didn't like and tried putting inappropriate pictures onto his computer to annoy him," Green said.
"He was targeting a teacher, he tried to put pornography on the teacher's computer," said Detective Anthony Bossone.
Green’s mother, Eileen Foster, believes her son did something wrong, but does not think arresting him was necessary.
"He had the chance to get into the FCAT files, he had the chance to change grades, to do whatever you can do in the FCAT files and he didn't take it," Foster said. "I think that alone proves he doesn't deserve a felony charge."
Other students are also in danger of being charged and arrested like Green.
”If information comes back to us and we get evidence (that other kids have done it), they're going to face the same consequences," Nocco said.
Green was released into the custody of his mother from Land O’Lakes Detention Center on Wednesday. In addition to the felony charge, he has also been suspended from school for 10 days.
The school district is in the process of changing the network password.