Tech-Savvy Baruch College Students Seek an Edge in Registration

Description: Wall Street companies use high-speed trading software to generate billions of dollars in profits. Fans of performers devise their own programs to help their favorite stars win online popularity contests.

Source: NYTimes.com

Date: Feb 4, 2013High-frequency-trader

So some Baruch College students tried using a similar method to gain an edge in signing up online for a new semester’s classes. But instead of getting seats in the most popular courses, they got themselves in a bit of trouble. And so did the next few students who tried it. And the next.In all, 19 Baruch students were told by the dean of students’ office to stop what they were doing, immediately. The customized computer script they were using to automatically log into the college’s course-registration system and check — and check and check and check — for openings in sought-after courses was creating so much digital traffic that it threatened to crash the computer system for the entire City University of New York, of which Baruch College is part, said Arthur Downing, the school’s chief information officer.   Read Rest of Story 

  Questions for discussion:

1. Is there anything wrong with students trying to get an edge to get into a class?  Why or Why Not

2.  If it deemed wrong, what should be the penalty?

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17 thoughts on “Tech-Savvy Baruch College Students Seek an Edge in Registration

  1. Andrew Garlock

    To me, it is not entirely obvious that the students were not intentionally trying to bring the computer system down. If I were trying to pull a prank on a school using a Denial of Service attack, I would likely do it under the guise of “oh, hey, my bad, I was just trying to be a keener and register for my classes, lol.”

    That being said, even if the students did know of the potential to crash the system, it appeared to be all in fun and games. At the University of Toronto, there is a equestrian statue in the nearby Queen’s Park, upon which there is a prominent set of testicles. Every year at the beginning of the semester, all of the student faculties try to paint the testicles with the colors of their faculty, and inevitably the engineering students always win. Clearly, this sort of mischievous activity isn’t encouraged by anyone, but it isn’t stopped either because no one is being harmed, and it brings about a sense of camaraderie in the students. In the same way, I think that this sort of attention is probably a healthy thing for the group of students involved.

    Finally, although this script that the students ran nearly caused problems for a great many people at the school, the students shouldn’t be held accountable as there was no rules in place against anything like this. The administrators don’t seem to be too worried about it, and since they have stopped, there isn’t any reason to punish them further.

    Reply
  2. Abraham Sarthak

    Well , according to me this act performed by the students of Baruch College is not violation of any rule . Student always face competition when they register for their courses and the person who is the quickest wins the race .The same thing happened at the college ,well they outsmarted the other students and hence were successful . The only problem that the college authorities had would be DOS (Denial of service ) because of too many students attempting to register before the actual time assigned for registration (even before the college authority was prepared for it ), might have caused the system to slow down .But according to me its not any unethical thing . If they wanted to do any harm to college or other student’s they could have done that easily , but the intentions were not that .They used their own login id’s and hence i feel that they would not cheating anyone .
    Well its totally up to the college authorities how they deal with this issue .According to me they should be proud of their students due to their capabilities .If they feel that this incident is unethical and would harm others they should just give these students a warning .As they didnt hide their identities when they were capable of doing this.

    Reply
  3. Brandon Yadernuk

    Is there anything wrong with students using technology to get into the classes that they want? I would argue that it is definitely not. The college uses the computer program to be able to register students in courses of their choice, at their convenience. So why shouldn’t students be allowed to use technology to be able to get ahead of those students who do not know how to use it. Just as the one student said that if punishment was being dealt then, in reality, they are being punished for being smarter than those who created the system.

    I don’t really believe that those students should be punished. If anything, since this problem has never came up before, the rules should be created and they should be let off with a warning. Or possibly bring the creator of the program onboard with the college and have them help to create the program that will stop future attempts at the same thing.

    Imagine a world were those individuals who are innovative get punished for those innovations. Where would this world be today? If the college doesn’t like what is happening then maybe they should consider updating their system so that problems like this do not happen again. But as for now, point goes to the student.

    Reply
  4. Ollie Sherwood

    In my eyes i see nothing wrong with what the students at this university was trying to do. As university students we all should know these guys pain in trying to get into that class which we all want, that class which may help us graduate fast than we hope. We have all sat there at am , entered the class number, hit submit only to get shut down and it sucks. Personally i like what they did, they are trying improve the system overall but maybe just did it in the wrong way. If they had asked the faculty for permission to do this process, i’m sure it would have been shut down due to the security risks that go along with what they did.

    If this is deemed wrong, it would be hard to understand the punishment towards these students. Personally, I dont think that they should be kicked out of school BUT i do understand if they do because at the end of it all they did hack the school system and I’m sure there are school regulations in respect to this. If it is deemed wrong then the people should be help responsible for their actions. Do i think that it is right that they do this ? No, but at the end of it all you still broke the school regulations.

    Reply
  5. Antonia

    I am very impressed that this happened. I don’t think there is anything wrong with what the students were trying to accomplish. They were trying to find new ways to get ahead of the other students. They were using what they learned to get ahead. It is hard to get into the popular classes; I wish I could find a way to do this. I say if you can find a way to be more efficient then do it. If students are going to this extreme to get into classes the school should take this as a learning experience and try to improve upon the existing system, which obviously needs some adjustments.
    I don’t think that there should be a punishment for the students; chances are they didn’t know they were going to get into trouble for it they were only trying to get ahead of everyone else. It is unfortunate that it threatened to crash the computers but that was not their intent. If they continue to try to use this software being aware of what happened then a punishment should be allowed, but chances are that student s will not continue to use the software after being “caught.”

    Reply
  6. charleschow

    I feel those students are wrong because they are just taking advantage in the system error. As a student, we are using the computer system as academic purpose. Even though it is legal to use these information from the system, those students have the duty to tell the instructor about the error. It is not only a matter among students, but also it might causes some hacker use the system errors intend to do some illegal activities and harm the system. For being a student, we should help our faculty protect our school’s computer system. If it deems wrong as using those information for students, the penalty should be students retake those courses. The student should retake the courses, they did not really learn the purpose of the courses. Why not give those students a serious penalty because there was not a guideline or policy for how the students should the system. Therefore, it seems like the best solution for this issue. However, there should be a serious penalty if this kind of issue happens again.

    Reply
  7. Navreet Dhillon

    At post- secondary level, students are taught to ask questions, explore and experiment; when students are penalized for outsmarting the system, they definitely don’t need to be punished. It is clear that the students at Baruch College had no malicious intent. They might just even have been curious and had no intention to create a problem. The college needs to upgrade their network, but even before doing that, they need to understand that the need to improve their system has been brought forward by the students of the university. Wasn’t it better that the students of the university discovered this weak point than a malicious hacker who might have abused all information he/she stumbled upon? There are many ways by which the college can improve their security system instead of blaming the students; they should deploy safety measures against hackers.
    The only negative point that comes forward is that these students might be harassing other students by hampering their registration process. Every student should have equal right to get into their choice of class and maybe post-secondary institutions need to find another way of registering students into classes smoothly. It can be challenging for colleges and universities to meet the needs of hundreds of competitive students but they can atleast try to be fair.

    Reply
  8. Kristian

    In terms of a legal sense, the students that were developing these programs were not breaking the law in any sense. The students were using past knowledge they have learned to adapt new technologies, and create a more efficient and perhaps cost effective method to online registration. In turn, the university could leverage these students and find out exactly how to improve their current system. In an ethical sense it may seem quite unfair. Every student at a university should have the right to equal registration rights, with seniority and total class hour being the only advantage for earl registration. However, the blame should lie on the university. It is the universities responsibility to provide students, faculty, and everybody affiliated with the university a secure network, anywhere from course registration to webmail.

    If these students are deemed wrong, punishment should not be harsh. The students found a loophole in the system that needed to be addressed. These students should be penalized with no early registration rights. Because the students were cheating the system in order to get ahead, it would be logical to penalize them by pushing back their initial registration dates. The students should also consult with IT, and explain exactly what they were doing, and how the university can fix it.

    Reply
  9. Dallon Martin

    I dont think that there is anything wrong with the issue. if these students are smart enough in the first place to be able to do something like this, and they aren’t breaking any rules, or even trying to hide it and be secretive. Its show initiative in a way that they want to get into the best classes and maybe have a a schedule with good times. It seems like it is something important to them and a great idea as well. In no way were they trying violate any privacy regulations either. All in all it was a great idea and good for them in being able to figure something like that out.
    In no way should there be any punishment. If anything they should automatically be rewarded with the classes they want for being able to come up with something like this. Doing things like this really shows how smart students are. As long as it never involves violating others privacy. Good job on these students for figuring something like this out.

    Reply
  10. Colin

    There are really two ways to look at this issue. First of all, these few students that had adapted a real world strategy to gain an edge in registering for classes were simply doing just that. They adapted a real world strategy that is completely legal in other areas, regardless of whether it should be or not. It is hard to fault these students when they see this exact technique used by other people in other situations. However, this does not mean that what they did was ethical or just. Using technology to abuse a system to gain an advantage while not necessarily illegal, it does create a massive problem for the Educational Institution, and the other students. Students who do not use this script to gain an advantage may be shut out of courses they need through no fault of their own. In terms of the stock market it has been proven that there are dire consequences to these sort of automatic scripts that can crash major systems. There was a widely known “flash crash” where these scripts inundated the system and could have potentially cost investors enormous amounts of money. Just because the technology is available to achieve these automatic queries does not mean it should be used. In this case, while you cannot fault these industrious students, what they did does not follow the policies as laid out by their University.

    Reply
  11. Katie Guccione

    I do not think that there is anything wrong with what the students did, they just seem to have outsmarted the system at the school. Although their actions gave them the advantage of being able to get into classes before their fellow peers, they did not do anything wrong. I do not think that they should have been punished, and the students clearly did not think that they were doing anything wrong as they signed in under their own user names. As I stated before the only thing that I see as morally incorrect is that they had an advantage to signing into classes before other students. I do not think they should be punished and I do not think that it is immoral. I feel as if the university should see this as a blessing and they now have the opportunity to make their security stronger so these problems never happen again. The students clearly had the power to break into the schools programs which means that the likely could have gotten into other data areas, thus the ‘damage’ that they did was very minimal compared to what they could have done. I think the students should not be punished, they should be allowed to get off free and the university should take it as a blessing that no other damages were done.

    Reply
  12. Brogan

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the student’s trying to gain an edge in getting into their classes. I know when it is registration time, and I need to get into a class I ready to go right when the clock hits 12:00:00:00. As well, as I retry constantly during the day, from my phone, to get into a closed class. I think it’s great that the students were so smart and able to use what they have learned in school, in real life to gain an advantage. I think the result of their attempt was unfortunate, but I don’t believe they should be punished for it. The students obviously weren’t trying to overload the server in order to wreck it for everyone else. They probably didn’t even really think about the result it might cause. I think they had a great idea, and unfortunately they will just have to think up another, less extreme way to register for classes more successfully.

    Reply
  13. YWesley

    If I was one of those sharp-witted students who achieved high digital traffic and potentially could have crashed the registrars class signup system. I would then have to ask myself, is this post-secondary school for me? If I have already achieved a level of knowledge to which my academic assistants have not developed programs to prevent this from happening, should I be a student at this institution? The answers to both questions would be no. No, because I would not want to be part of an educational system to which I have already “out smarted” the body of pedagogue. If they were unable to put firewalls into place within those measures, I would have to wonder if my personal information is safe guarded. A positive option for the educational institute is to use this breach to their advantage. They could offer a scholarship to those programmer or hackers, to find faults within their systems. Part of the application requirements would be to include the program codes. This would than attract a more knowledge body of students. That way the academic department could use their knowledge in coming years, give them a place within the institute working for them, and not against them.

    Reply
  14. Mohadese

    This case would be an example for Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Students did not intend to do an attack or misuse the system for their registration and there would be some problems in software or technology of the university. The students used the systems to register in their courses. In my opinion, they did not attempt to attack other users’ privacy or accessibility. In addition, they helped the university to identify the problems of their new system, for several reasons. First, the number of the students who need to register each semester would not change, so they need to modify their system regarding the number of students and the amount of students checking the website at a specific time. Second, the manager of MIS or any person who is responsible for IS needed to adapt the technology such as the computer regarding the number of users and their requests. For example, they might need to increase the power (CPU) or capacity of its memory (RAM). They may need to upgrade the type of their computer, for example from Mainframe Computers to Supercomputers. Third, they may need to change the software that they use. It might be possible that the new program, which they use for registration, was not the best or appropriate one for their systems and users’ needs. It may be possible that the kind of software that the university used is useful for activities such as finance but not for course registration. Fourth, the university would need to set specifics rules for its websites users. For example, every student would be assigned a specific time for their registrations in regards to their departments.
    My answer would be managing and upgrading the systems and software regarding the students ‘needs instead of penalizing the students.

    Reply
  15. ibrahim.akinola

    No there is nothing wrong in the students trying to get an edge into a class because most students want to get into a class with the best professor before it gets filled up, also the students making use of IT to try and accomplish their goal shows how brilliant they are to even think that far and consider it as an option because most students would rather wait till it is their turn to register in the class or hope for other students to drop the class; some might even be scared to carry out such things or don’t even know how to do it in the first place.
    The students who undertook that experiment just showed how different they are from other students and gave the university officials the impressions that they are smarter than they look, and they like making the first move rather than staying at the back and following the crowd until their turn arrives. The university should be proud of how courageous and intelligent their students are to understand and adopt the IT system used by wall street companies which costs these firms millions to install, taking and implementing it in order to get into a class in the university.
    Based on this article, this shows how intelligent or smart student arise because they tend to distinguish themselves from others

    Reply
  16. Josh

    This account brings up the issue of laws and regulations in the face of a new digital landscape. Humankind has been organized by the same basic rules of conduct for thousands of years without much change. These rules have been in place to prevent individuals from benefiting themselves at the expense of others; from harming and exploiting one another. With the presence and prevalence of a global digital network, humans are finding new ways to gratify themselves, while at the same time, cause each other grief. Obviously there are many cases like this one where no harm was meant to be done, no one was explicitly hurt, and the question of punishment is, in my opinion, unnecessary. These cases can be used to learn from; to better understand the capacity of people to mess with the system, and to become better prepared to prevent such mischief. But at the same time, there are many cases which are much more serious in their nature, often causing severe and widespread damage to others or their property. Many questions arise from these instances – like what laws should exist to control the use of digital technology? Who should create and enforce these laws? Is it even possible to enforce law and order in a virtual world? These are few of the difficult questions which I don’t think anyone has found the answers to yet. But, as long as laws and regulations do not exist, who is to say that anything is specifically right or wrong?

    Reply
  17. Marc

    1. Is it wrong? I don’t believe so. The discussion is about competition for a goal and the tools that people use to gain a competitive advantage. In that sense, it’s just the same as Olympic speed skaters using body suits with silicone ribbing to break the high-pressure air before it hits the rest of the body suit (lower air pressure -> less wind resistance on the skater). With a lack of regulation on tools used in competition, the competition turns into a game of who can afford to design and use the best technology (which gets into a bigger discussion of the Olympics, that it is the most financially committed nations that win). For the Olympics to regulate the tools used in their games, they must focus on the athletic elements they are focusing the competition on. For the City University of New York to regulate the tools their students use in the competition for class registration, they enter the battlefield of what competitive elements they will reward students for employing. As indicated in the full article, they weren’t interested in punishing the students.

    Now, for the students, they probably should have set their script timer on a longer interval, to check every hour instead of every second. To level this playing field, the university could setup an RSS feed or email notification subscription service to inform students of registration openings.

    This reminds me of the example 3 minutes into this Google Tech Talk video, the poll asking “Which is the best Computer Science Grad School in the US?”

    Reply

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