Canadian School Expels Student for Finding Vulnerability in Their Online Services

January 23, 2013, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Sometimes the world doesn’t  appreciate what some people do for them, even if what they have done was to protect them. An incident of sorts occurred in Montreal, where a student was expelled for attempting to protect his college-mates.

Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a 20-year old computer science major studying in Dawson College, found an inconsistency while working on a mobile app that worked on track with Omnivox. He found out “sloppy coding” that could have resulted in a major breach of education-related data in Canada.

He duly informed the Directory of Information Services and Technology about the vulnerability, and he and his collaborator was praised for their efforts. They were informed that Skytech, the company which develops Omnivox, would be told about it so that they can patch up the error.

online service

Since Omnivox software is used by hundreds of colleges and universities in Canada, a threat could affect them all.

But nothing happened and Al-Khabaz thought about checking the vulnerability by starting up the Acunetix web exploit testing kit. But when he did that, Skytech noted the activity in its log files and notified  Al-Khabaz that he was breaking the law.

They said that Al-Khabaz could face charges and be possibly jailed for his actions. Even though Edouard Taza, president of Skytech, praised him for being smart enough to notice the flaw, the president felt that the use of Acunetix was going too far.

Dawson College agreed with the president and the computer science department voted 14 to 1 to expel Al-Khabaz. The decision had the student’s straight-A grades reduced to zero and his academic future in smoke.

Al-Khabaz spoke to The National Post and said that if it wasn’t for their discovery, a bigger danger would have evolved. “Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else.” He added, “I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it.”

No other college in Canada has come forward to accept this bright brain, and it is really unfortunate to see the education system turning a blind eye to a student’s efforts to save his fellow men.

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