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Don't hack your way through life

May 16, 2004

The high school hacker fits the profile of hackers around the

world -- young, male, above-average intelligence, and obviously, very


If you think the cybercops in Newport Beach have been busy, you

should see them in Germany. The latest global virus, called Sasser,

was launched two months ago, and last week, German police showed up

at the door of an 18-year old they've identified only as "Sven J" in


Lower Saxony, which is just like Upper Saxony, only lower. Before

Sven and Sasser were done, they wreaked havoc on computer networks at

Delta Air Lines, the British Royal Coast Guard and the European

Commission in Brussels. According to German authorities, Sven J said

he hadn't really considered the damage his virus could cause.

Yeah. I'm sure.

One encouraging aspect of the Corona del Mar cybercaper was the

reaction of some of the other students.

"I think it was really stupid, said CdM freshman Jessika Kelly in

this week's Pilot. "Why don't you just study for a test? If you cheat

you won't learn anything."

You go, Jessika. I want you to work on your spelling a little bit,

but you are definitely on the right page of life.

"It's shocking," said another freshman, Amber Peck. "Why don't you

just study instead of changing your grades? And then you don't have

to worry about being caught."

Was my head screwed on that straight at that age? I don't know. I

wasn't into the cheating thing, but when it came to studying, if

there was any way out of it, I'd find it.

There were no computers at the time, other than Univac, which took

up a large warehouse, required a team of people with clipboards in

white coats, and had about one one-thousandth the computing power of

my electronic Rolodex.

I don't remember any big deal cheating scandals to speak of, of

course none of us would have dared dream of tampering with records,

let alone tried it. Keep in mind this was eight years of Irish nuns

and four years of Jesuits.

Somebody would get caught glancing at someone else's paper now and

then. A nun or a priest, sometimes one of each, would work them over

like Rocky Balboa on a speed bag, and that was that. It was never a

problem for me, not because I was any better, but because I had the

eyesight of a lemur.

A paper on the next desk was as good as in the next classroom to

me. So the advice hasn't changed, even after all these years.

Do your own work, keep your eyes on your desk, and listen to

Jessika and Amber. I gotta go.

* PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs

Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at

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