Skip to comments.Feds: Harvard fellow hacked millions of papers
Posted on 07/19/2011 2:15:04 PM PDT by Hunton Peck
BOSTON (AP) A Harvard University fellow who was studying ethics was charged with hacking into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's computer network to steal nearly 5 million academic articles.
Aaron Swartz, 24, of Cambridge, was accused of stealing the documents from JSTOR, a popular research subscription service that offers digitized copies of more than 1,000 academic journals and documents, some dating back to the 17th century.
In an indictment released Tuesday, prosecutors say Swartz stole 4.8 million articles between September 2010 and January after breaking into a computer wiring closet on MIT's campus. Swartz, then a student at the Harvard's Center for Ethics, downloaded so many documents during one October day that some of JSTOR's computer servers crashed, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors say Swartz intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.
Swartz turned himself in Tuesday and was arraigned at U.S. District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to charges including wire fraud, computer fraud and unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond and faces up to 35 years in prison, if convicted.
"Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement. "It is equally harmful to the victim whether you sell what you have stolen or give it away."
A call to Swartz's attorney wasn't immediately returned. Swartz is due back in court Sept. 9.
A spokeswoman for JSTOR said Tuesday that Swartz had agreed to return all the articles, so the company can ensure they aren't distributed.
"We don't own any of this content. We really have to responsible stewards of it," said spokeswoman Heidi McGregor. "We worked hard to find out what was going on."
(Excerpt) Read more at centurylink.net ...
I would love to have those.
This is one time when the misused term “ironic” would be appropriate.
That's not hacking.
Harvard graduated Dead Ted (a cheater) and Obama (a total idiot who I cannot believe ever passed a real test.)
For that alone, we can seriously question what standards that school has for entrance and graduation.
Oxford grads used to refer to Cambridge as the “spy school”.
Perhaps we can start referring to Harvard as the “cheater’s school”.
I'd be telling people that I was a hitman for a drug cartel.
Did he find any of Obama’s papers? Doubtful... they probably don’t exist.
I always say that it was worth it for me to get a PhD just to have access to JSTOR. : )
I don’t know what happened at this guy’s school. We have monitoring systems that will alert the library and/or the journal if someone downloads too many articles in a short period of time. They will stop you from downloading and you’ll get a nice phone call or visit from someone asking what you’re doing.
This guy shouldn’t have been able to go so far before he was caught.
I am becoming more and more convinced that you shouldn’t be able to own ideas — even after they’re put down on paper.
And they will still be one of those schools that taunts the other school at football games that someday they'll end up working for Harvard grads. Life is unfair, as a famous and lucky Harvard graduate liked to say.
It's certainly ironic that this guy was studying ethics, but don't universities pay JSTOR and other databases to get access to articles for their students? Wouldn't this guy have access as a Harvard fellow. Maybe not enough to copy 4 million articles, but all the access he would reasonably have needed?
The article says he wanted to distribute the papers for free on a file-sharing website — sort of a nerdy Napster, I guess. He must think there’s a clamoring among the masses for free access to academic treatises.
Physical access is one of the often forgotten elements of network security. If the perp has access to the equipment, he has access to the data. Would I call that “hacking”, no not really. Though it does take some hacking skills after you get physical access.
Frankly I don’t think JSTOR has a leg to stand here. If they don’t own the content then restricting access to it becomes their business model.
JSTOR didn’t actually write or own or purchase any of the information that they are trying to control.
I hope this guy gets a good lawyer who points out the nature of JSTOR’s business is basically to tell people what they can or can’t read.
Which might have amounted to nothing more than connecting a patch cable between a switch and a laptop.
Does JSTOR pay royalties or “pay-per-view” fees back to the authors.
If not, they’re no better than Huffington Post - profiting on the backs of someone else’s labor.
Higher education is a racket - and JSTOR is just another tool of extortion along with high priced text books and overprice tuition.
He might have been able to do it with a simple sniffer program...
If it was wifi, he wouldn't have needed to physically break into the "computer wiring closet," would he?
JSTOR is a nonprofit that gets funding from foundations and utilizes funds from institutions in a co-op fashion to maintain hosting and continue document scanning - the latter was likely much more capital and labor intensive years ago and largely negated in recent years.
Its content is generally 5 years old or older - a collection of out-of-print academic journals.
It’s an interesting copyright case because from all appearances the content is not sold or licensed per-article or per download, instead member institutions get access to the database and articles. It’s almost an electronic used-book repository all author-publisher considerations are likely long expired or fulfilled, and the publisher is now drawing relatively small considerations for “back catalog.”
This is a very odd story. Why didn’t this guy access JSTOR via a Harvard computer?
This doesn’t seem to be a copyright infringement case. The charges involve breaking into the MIT computer and network.
You sure about that? Seems like copyright to me, but I could be wrong.
“He must think theres a clamoring among the masses for free access to academic treatises.”
There is. And it would be beneficial to society if he did manage to get the out of print documents in a format where they could easily be accessed.
In terms of document preservation, if it’s not shared, it’s going to get lost.
This being an AP story, there's a lot left to the imagination...
...stealing the documents from JSTOR, a [non-profit] popular research subscription service that offers digitized copies of more than 1,000 academic journals and documents, some dating back to the 17th century... stole 4.8 million articles between September 2010 and January after breaking into a computer wiring closet on MIT's campus. Swartz, then a student at the Harvard's Center for Ethics, downloaded so many documents during one October day that some of JSTOR's computer servers crashed, according to the indictment... intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites... A spokeswoman for JSTOR said Tuesday that Swartz had agreed to return all the articles, so the company can ensure they aren't distributed.