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Montreal Student Expelled After Finding Software Oversight


January 22, 2013
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.

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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 on  1/28/2013 8:33:55 AM commented:

Al-Khabaz made a mistake by logging back into the program. He should have contacted the Director of Information to confirm that it had been taken care. It is a most unfortunate situation.

Reginald G  on  1/27/2013 6:00:27 PM commented:

I feel that Al should have asked the Director to check and run the program themselves, just to avoid this situation.Still, this was handled poorly

bryan l  on  1/25/2013 11:06:57 PM commented:

It's a travesty, these students were only trying to help, and instead of being commended , they get expelled, it's not fair and Dawson college showed be ashamed.

Ian F  on  1/25/2013 6:39:06 PM commented:

"Oh look, a student did something better for us, but now he ran a test to find more problems. Quick, expell him before he makes our IT department look foolish!" If that is honestly their mindset and reason for expelling this student, I would not want to attend this institute.

Jackson W  on  1/25/2013 7:11:17 AM commented:

Instead of expelling Al-Khabaz, the university should have rewarded him for his initiative in following up on what could have been a serious issue for the university and its students.

Destinee H  on  1/24/2013 2:46:16 PM commented:

I don't think they handle the situation very well.

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