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Montreal Student Expelled After Finding Software Oversight

by Suada Kolovic

Being expelled from school after discovering a flaw in the computer system – one that compromised the personal information of more than 250,000 students – seems highly unlikely. In fact, one would assume that the student who sought to notify the school in order to amend the vulnerability in the college’s data security system would be commended and touted as the school genius...but that wasn’t the case for Ahmed Al-Khabaz.

The 20-year-old Dawson College student and his computer science colleague Ovidiu Mija discovered an oversight in the Omnivox software while working on a mobile app that would simplify student access to their college accounts. Al-Khabaz took the findings to the director of information services and technology Francois Paradis on October 24th, where Paradis congratulated him and Mija on their work and promised the he and Skytech (the maker of Omnivox) would fix the problem immediately. Two days later, Al-Khabaz decided to take it upon himself to confirm just that by running a software program designed to test for website vulnerabilities but within minutes, he received a phone call from Skytech president Edouard Taza, who declared his actions a cyberattack. He was then called before the computer science department, where 14 of the 15 professors present voted in favor of Al-Khabaz’s expulsion.

Following the decision to reject his appeal, Al-Khabaz said, “My academic career is completely ruined. In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster. 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.” How do you think Dawson College handled the situation? Let us know in the comments section.


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