picture taken while they were asleep?
don't these idiots ever turn their computers off? that'll teach them to burn the leccy
A suburban Philadelphia school district secretly captured thousands of images of students in their homes, sometimes as they slept or were partially undressed, according to documents filed in federal court. Using a system to track lost or stolen laptops, officials from the Lower Merion School District also covertly surveilled …
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Haven't you ever faceplanted your keyboard during a long and late assignment as a result of failing to keep the caffeine levels up?
The keylogger data would've been intriguing:
Admin: "He keeps going on about this 'dsgfsjkhhhhkjweeeeeeeeellaanasanswrrrrrr'. D'you think it's a new drug?"
Quote from article:
"Viewing the images was like watching "a little LMSD soap opera," one of them said, referring to the initials of the school district.
"I know, I love it!" technology coordinator Carol Cafiero replied."
I know we shouldn't get all frothy at the mouth over paedophile danger, but when we actually find one, we chop off their private bits, right? Even if it's a woman? Where are the pitchforks?
Prove your laptop is off, assuming you didn't install it and don't have admin rights.
Do you take the battery out everynight, put it in a lead-lined box?
I used to work in an environment where, for security, you were allowed nothing electronic - even car alarm fobs were suspect.
But this was for a lab where "prompt criticality" wasn't a management buzzword - I wouldn't expect the same thing to apply to my kid's bedroom.
I think I've become deaf to the concern about paedophiles supposedly on every street corner thanks to the tabloids' unhealthy obsession with the subject, but for the sheer scale of the disregard for other people's privacy, I hope they throw the book at the scrotes responsible.
What happened to like reformatting and installing a different OS?
Or assuming that would have caused problems how about a bit of blacktape over the webcam & mic when your not actively using it? I mean its not like its rocket science & provides you with reasonable security against a remotely activated camera/mic.
Daft kids & insanely stupid school administrators, who deserve the book throwing at them over this. In any other setting the person activating the 'security' software would be labelled a right perv and the tabloids would have a field day with them.
The state of Pennsylvania has a number of good ideas. Since budgets don't matter until election time the states' larger citys are putting up cameras so we can be more like Europe watching people get raped, mugged, and killed on the streets rather then simply having the proper police force to deal with the problems.
We have GPS on most of state police trooper cars (unsure of the unmarked ones) which can be beneficial to cops during a trial. However this technology has also been shown to be a fork in road as well since as we all already know cops are allowed to lie to get you to say something however when you lie you lose your credibility. Hard to lie about where you were at when the GPS says hey your right there!
They tinkered with the notion of having GPS in the cars of our great honest politicans here drive but it was said to be a security concern. Yeah it's a security concern that they get caught in their taxpayer supplied escalades out at the truck stop picking up suitcases from lobbying firms.
These kids that had this happen to them deserve whatever they can get from this school district and also the department of education for allowing it to happen.
We know a pedophile is currently running the doe, god knows what he's doing with these pictures.
If they snapped images of students who were "in various states of undress", they should be charged with production, (and maybe distribution) of child pornography.
Yeah, I know intent has a lot to do with it, but I've seen people in the US convicted on nothing more than cached thumbnails that may have been of someone under 18.
Do they no longer teach what "unreasonable searches and seizure" and "due process" mean at the highschool level? I guess that's fairly rhetorical ... One of the problems of reducing school budgets is that the kids don't learn little details like this.
The idiots who signed off on this need to do jail time.
 I know, to the politicians it's a feature, not a bug.
of a lying scumbag as president, who thinks of the Constitution as "just a piece of paper," ideas like unreasonable search and seizure are probably out of fashion now.
When your goverment can listen in on the whole country's phone conversations and never have to show due cause, when anything goes in the name of catching "turrrists," when the One Commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Get Caught," it probably gets a little murky sorting out right from wrong.
this is why there is tape over the webcam on my laptop.
also if you're dumb enough to trust a school supplied laptop you get what you deserve, without a doubt i'd be booting it off some sort of live disc or better yet sticking an extra partition on there.
also anon coward, never left bittorrent running over night?
Apart from security, I find built-in webcams to be a PIA - much rather plug one in as I need it, and be able to place and adjust it as I please. They're becoming fairly ubiquitous, so I may not have a choice in future - but I wouldn't touch a machine without a hard-switch control for the cam.
Also .... quite an amazing number of people do not use their computers for BitTorrent and the like, and actually switch them off occasionally. Strange but true.
Turn the Computer OFF?!
Seriously, I don't think you get the point.
But Karl explains it quite well and to the point.
If the school district is really REALLY concerned about the laptops going AWOL, can't they install some kind of "black box" transmitter thingie? I am gobsmacked that somewhere in the bowels of the school bureaucracy, someone said "Well, we can have the laptops take pictures at various intervals" without being gangstomped by the district's lawyers. Pass the popcorn, this oughta be a good one.
What's LMSD then? The only thing Google's 'define:' gives is Lower Middle School District.
@ first OP: presumably, since the software was for tracking stolen laptops, it has a "remote-on" function because you can't track something that is off. If it's in suspend mode, then it's probably easy to have the network port stay open and send some sort of WOL type thing. Then again, harder to do with wireless...
...cannot be used for this type of wake-up remotely, unless the system generating the WOL packet is either on the same physical (wired) network, or there is some form of MAC level routing set up.
By definition, WOL packets have to be at the MAC level (if the laptop is off, DHCP cannot allocate IP addresses), and these do not route through standard IP routers.
And this also means that the laptop cannot be on a wireless network, as WOL does not work over an 802.11abgn network.
My suspicion is that when the laptop in on, there is a VPN set up to allow the laptop to access and be accessed by the school systems, regardless of the network, routers and firewalls between the school and the laptop. This will be a software VPN, which relies on the OS, which means that the system has to be on.
Unless someone has produced a LAN card that is integrated in these laptops that does IP and VPN actually in the NIC when in standby mode. If they have, I suggest that these would be laptops to avoid, as who knows who would be able to snoop.
In his web seminar the Tech admin at the centre of this mess, Mike Perbix, explains in great detail exactly how it works.
I dont remember all the exact details but in essence when the laptop is turned on and once it establishes a connection to the internet it will connect to the LANrev server back at the school on a port published on the school's firewall. The LANrev software is running at all times on the laptop and can not be switched off and doing so is an excludable offence under the school rules.
The LANrev software by default sits in remote admin mode so that the school IT admin team can remotely manage the machine. If the laptop has been flagged as stolen then once it has established its connection to the LANrev server the LANrev software on the laptop will kick into remote observation mode and start taking screenshots and photos every 15 minutes and dispatching them to the school LANrev server.
I am pretty sure this system only works when the machine is turned on however I am not sure if it keeps taking snapshots and photos once it has been triggered even when it is not on the net until it is told not to do so when it connects back up with the LANrev server in the school.
I think he mentioned that he could activate the camera at any time on any connected laptop and take snapshots. I think I remember that he was boasting that the camera could be set to take pictures every 15 minutes when not connected to the home network. You and I would presume that the home network was the one at the students home but I suspect that he could have meant the "home" network in the school that the LANrev server was situated on.
It is a while since I last saw the web seminar that he did so I may have some of the details wrong. I last saw it when the scandal broke. The full seminar can be found in 6 parts on youtube by searching youtube for "Mike Perbix LANrev" and you used to (and probably still can although I havent tried) be able to access the seminar through links in the Blog page linked to at the bottom of the article that we are comenting on.
Mike Perbix's web seminar video was at one time part of the promotional material for LANrev however LANrev have now disavowed him and removed the webcam functionality from their product by all accounts
...my university IT department switched our standard office monitor to one with an inbuilt webcam. Mainly because of the new videoconferencing kit we just installed. But a lot of postgrads were getting paranoid about being spied on.
Not sure why anyone would actually want to watch postgrads sitting in their grotty food-packet-filled offices, but I am sure this incident will result in the first aid cabinets needing another top-up of bandaids (used to cover the webcam lenses).
I was lucky enough to get a new monitor before the webcam ones. I prefer a seperate webcam. I can turn it upside down for internal video calls. And it is easier to move to where I can use my hand, made up with whiteboard marker lips and eyes, as my puppet (my motto is currently "talk to the hand"). I am planning to get hold of a fake eyeball from the science centre gift shop some time and do Vindaoonian impersonations too. Luckily my boss has a good sense of humour. :-D
It says "school issued Macs" in the article. Which suggests they were school property. So the sysadmins should have every right to do what the school tells them to rather than what some kid wants.
Also, presumably there were some T&C's included with the purchase of the $55 insurance surveillance pack that they bought.
I suggest that everyone read the AP story which mentions something that I find rather shocking. Apparently hundreds of parents/families are opposing the Robbins' suit against the school. I'm caught between wondering why, and worrying that the answer to my question might be even worse.
That's what it says. I don't know what "other reasons" there were, but apparently the primary reason was financial. Presumably meaning they are afraid (perhaps rightly) that the settlement from such a lawsuit could bankrupt the school.
While I can see where they're coming from, I don't much like that line of reasoning. It reminds me of the "too big to fail" justification for the bank bailouts. People in positions of power have to be held accountable somehow. I would rather put up with a little temporary disruption than let them hide behind that excuse indefinitely.
They shouldn't stop at the school, they should also go after the individuals who I'm sure will claim they were "just doing their jobs".
The district is going to be in a world of hurt when some student takes a 'sexting' pic and it winds up on the net with a ready excuse that it was taken remotely. Oh yes, the poor fan will seize with the amount of shit that's going to be on it.
Im guessing but in the T&C of the laptops given away probably had something in it, and how exactly does a laptop know when its stolen?
Or does it wait until a signal has been sent to it, if so then that laptop must transmit a signal via the net letting servers know where they are, anyone else see the failed logic in this?
The paedofinder general should be burning them in a wicker man by now... Pictures of partially dressed kids like a soap opera, more akin to Skins or some seedy Channel 5/Canal Sat show.
Down with this sort of thing, won't someone please think of the children, etc. Just think mind, not too much, and no peeking at them while they sleep!
@AC 23:22 They're Americans, electricity comes from other planets dontcha know ;)
One wonders if there are laws against capturing images of scantily clad minors in the US of A, or does Britain pwn the yanks on this legal (a)front?
Flame to purify their unclean minds. Requesting a Peadofinder General icon please Moderatrix ^^
In order to protect our precious children from paedos in the streets, we'll give pic-snapping capability to so-called safety products so that we can have our kids oogled at by IT workers in our schools - positions now undoubtedly extremely sought after by . . . paedos.
So all is well now, right ?
We now have it going from "only used when the laptop is reported stolen" to "he never paid the insurance, so that gave us the right to turn it on". IHMO (IANAL)- This is nothing less than state supported voyerism, thought policing, and most likely child pornography (although I will bet there are no safeguards in place to make sure that there was a record of imaged "deleted" by people viewing them and, statistically speaking, there will be one of those pictures somewhere). If I were this kid's attorney, I'd be all over the "Safeguards" in place for the data.
The proper icon to attach to your post is the 8th one along on the second row.
Unless of course you're serious, in which case, may I refer you to the icon attached to this post.
Everyone who thought this was a great idea, all the way up to the highest level of administration which gave the OK for it, should be made an example of.
The thing is that while the above might be repressed in general all it requires is some suitable form of justification perhaps something along lines of:
thought the machine had been stolen
thought the machine was being used improperly
thought that the machine might have been accessing inappropriate websites
it is an expensive machine and we needed to see what it was doing as it was switched on we decided to use some of its features to take images, videos or track emails to be sure that our investment was being used as it should
The defining line can be rather neat.
For example between a good GP and (in UK) a Dr Harold Shipman type GP (yes, he too was able to justify what had happened beyond scrutiny and accountability)
The claim about the insurance is a trifle odd. If you can't take the laptop home, what's the point?
Even if that provides an excuse for using the software, we're talking potential child porn images. Semi-clad young men? Whay shouldn't they be as well-protected by the law as semi-clad young women?
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...they (the school) are f*cked, in a sane society that is. Anonymous Coward you are a first class prick whom I hope is badly burned in a road accident! If someone took pictures of my daughter in a state of undress there wouldn't be a court case, instead I'd send 'the boys' round to break some limbs - it's the only language these tw*ts understand.
I've had the bad luck of being told to record and report on the PC activities of employees.
Some under scrutiny were people I liked, others not so much.
In either case, it felt like a creepy thing to have to do, even if necessary.
My co-worker at the time also had to surveil.
He enjoyed it and and advocated more usage.
Carol Cafiero sounds like him from this article.
My co-worker ended up getting laid off, I'm still employed.
A person who is a snoop tends to have a lot of other baggage.
Who would want them around?
>don't these idiots ever turn their computers off? that'll teach them to burn the leccy
I leave mine on all the time. No cameras though.
>also if you're dumb enough to trust a school supplied laptop you get what you deserve.
If you are at the stage where you have to assume that something your school issues to your kid is dangerous then this is the least of your problems!
What's next ? My kid brought home a note form school but I had the bomb squad destroy it unopened - after all you can't be too careful with school stuff!
What reason would the kids have to suspect that the school is spying on them at home?
Even if you had told them to cover the lens, they'd have asked you where your tin foil hat is. Hell some of them are so thick now you could show them this article and they still wouldn't believe it. They get to worship the flag every morning and pay lip service to freedom and that's proof enough to them that they live in a free country. The only real choice many of them will ever have, in the immortal words of George Carlin (RIP), is "paper or plastic?" oops, these days you can't even have plastic. Nevermind then.
It's not okay for schools to spy on kids at home just because kids can cover the camera. What if the school started excluding people for doing that? "damaging school property" they'd call it. Yeah it'd be trumped-up bullshit but that's never stopped them before and they'll be damned if they're going to let honesty and integrity get in their way now.
How can they possibly be trying to justify that what they did was ok?
and the LAME excuse about the insurance not paid? why couldn't they just as him when he got to school the next day? It is just a blatent invasion of privacy.
and FYI A/C you are not meant to close your laptop lid while it is running as the keyboard is where much of the heat is dispersed.
Hopefully, all the hot air that has been blown in the above comments made everyone feel better, or at least let them brag about their IT security prowess sufficiently.
Otherwise, does anybody really believe this will go further than deals being cut, a couple of scapegoats/yes-men getting in trouble, and the real source(s) of these policies skulking in the shadows, untouched (or quietly let go to come back as highly paid consultants/advisers)?
I'd have them straight for child pornography. If the government insists on passing idiotic laws you might as well make good use of it and get those %&ç£$ idiots into a world of trouble. If I would have discovered this going on with my kid that suspicion would have been with the plods in the next 30 seconds (plus the 10 minutes it takes them to pick up the call, of course).
Naturally, as a concerned parent I could only highlight my suspicion, but the law of probability makes it likely they will have some images that will fit the bill, and it would take ages before they'd dug themselves out of that hole.
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Surely the school board made these kids - or their parents - sign something before handing over the comp. Even if just a receipt.
So did the Terms of Service say something like 'In signing this I acknowledge that authorized officials may, at their discretion, activate features or intercept communications on this device.'
If so it may go a long way towards getting the school off the hook. Not that this would make its actions any less contemptible or inexcusable.
Usually I am not for throwing the book at folks, we have too many public urinators, harmless flashers, and teenage-to slightly out of tennager indicretionaries on the sexual predator databases already, having such folks on these is like crying wolf as we get worn down to not being concerned about the truly dangerous individual's, the out and out raw sexual predators.
That being said; every last one of these so-called "public servants" involved in this whole blatant 4th amendment violation/mess ought to be on the sex predator role-call for quite a long time; it should be a convenient way to segue them into some other career field away from interacting with minors. Kinda reminds me of the Catholic Church and how its ranks harbored pedophile wanabe's for decades, time for the purge to begin....
If he was not allowed to take it home then he must have been instructed to dropped it off somewhere specific in the school. If the school finds it is not where it should be at the end of the day then I could reason that turning it on would be fine... for ONE DAY. They are obviously doing this for entertainment rather than security and as such I hope they get their asses handed to them.
The only person you want to watch you is the one who does not want to.
" Apparently hundreds of parents/families are opposing the Robbins' suit against the school. I'm caught between wondering why, "
As a guess, I'd say it was something to do with the way schools are funded in the US: by a tax on local property. Presumably the opposing parents are also local taxpayers and if Robbins wins ten billion dollars </dr evil>, then they know next year their property taxes will go up to pay for damages/legal costs/higher insurance/whatever.
There seems to be an interesting human behavioural issue on the go here (and I'd guess at quite a few yet undisclosed places).
A decent hardworking village/town butcher serving the needs of residents turning to commit most horrible crime upon request that people of different ethnic values end up in a mass grave with the butcher doing the dispatching.
How does such a large change come about?
Reasonable shop owner to war criminal in very easy steps?
Maybe there is also a voyeuristic aspect happening with belief that they are above reproach (just doing what I was told to do perhaps?)
"I taped a little square of cardboard cut from a cereal box over the the lens of the camera on my MacBook. If the combined legions of Bill Jobs and the surveillance state can defeat that to see me surfing with no pants on, then good luck to 'em."
Apple is a step ahead of you, with "a flat-panel display that doubles as a camera". Reg article "Apple patents all-seeing display" here:
Snippet from the above Reg link: "Essentially, the patent describes a flat panel in which each display element (pixel) is accompanied by an imaging element (sensor) with either a fixed-focus or zoomable lens. The display can thus act as a traditional display while simultaneously imaging an object - such as your face - in front of it."
The U.S. Patent website (linked to in above Reg article) says that "the integrated sensing device can not only output images (e.g., as a display) but also input images (e.g., as a camera)."
Good luck turning *that* kind of camera off - anytime you can see the screen, it can see (and record images of) you.
I hope Apple never implements this creepy technology.
But (hand me my tinfoil hat, please) what's to stop *other* companies from secretly implementing a similar technology and just not bothering to tell the customers? Seems like it could have potential for, oh I dunno, industrial espionage or something... or not...
Check this video: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/learning/schools/how-google-saved-a-school.html?play
Watch the creepy assistant principal (from 4:30-6:00 in the video) as he observes students remotely, and says with glee, "They don't even realise that we're watching. I always like to mess with them and take a picture."
There'll be plenty more lawsuits.
The number of people here who cover their camera is ridiculous.
Do you really care if someone can see you?
Even if you're naked, unless you're particularly good looking then you're probably only going to attract a minority audience. (or a kid attracting a paedo audience)
If someone wants to look at you that badly, they are going to find other ways to do it. You only need to look at dealextreme to see some of the very cheap mini cameras you can buy that would easily be squeezed in all sorts of small places around your house. Long lenses, etc... are all probably easier and more reliable than trying to track down your IP address and remotely pwn your PC and enable your webacm and stream data back without you noticing.
Or do you regularly do illegal stuff in front of your PC? (not on your PC like downloading, in front of it, like I can't imagine what, that isn't extremely depraved and unlikely)
You're more likely to get a key logger than a remotely controlled webcam and you're not disconnecting your keyboard are you?
FFS, there is so much wrong with this I don't know wher to begin!
1. For the people who say lappy left on to run BitTorrent, cop on would you. If you were distributing lappys to school kids with secret spyware wouldn’t you lock then down so that can’t be fiddled with? I know I would. Downloading music on a school PC, the copyright mafiiaa would sue the school. Your job GONE!
2. Who gave the teachers/admin paedo spy powers, not only would I sack the headmaster and the two admins, I’d sack the fuck-wits that gave them the authority in the first place. The only input the school should have in the stolen laptop process is that the school should report the laptop stolen to a central location who should be the only one able to switch the service on.
3. Surprised nobody raised the “if you’re not doing anything wrong etc.” line of bullshit.
4. Never mind the school, did you see the ads server up by the oompa-loompa news story? A trio of ads for blood suckers offering Injury Compensation, online claims and best of all Computer Forensics, eDiscovery and Litigation Consulting experts.
5. Note to merkin parents who are opposed to the Robbins taking the case, here’s a little quote from one of the signatories of your constitution “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” - Benjamin Franklin.
6. I really do hope the Robbins get millions, just to teach the fuck-wits a lesson. (Hi I’m an ex-headmaster of a Philadelphia school, and because I ignored a minor’s privacy and have no sense of what is morally correct I cost the state millions of dollars, would you like to employ me, No? Good!)
7. The only winners in this case will be the blood sucke.... eh lawyers, as usual.
His parents didn't pay the insurance so that makes it OK to spy on him? How does that work then? Did the school even warn him before hand that he wasn't to take the laptop home?
Anyway that surely only covers one student, what's their excuse for spying on all those other kids? It's like a soap opera so that makes it OK to watch does it?
When the arseholes come unstuck......
These genuine comedies of "fuckwit-ism" and "shit for brains" - fiasco's - on one hand, just like carrying two armfulls of ocean, it's incredibly difficult to get any firm grip on any of it;
And yet on the other I kind of roar in laugher and glee at their "high speed crash of explosives, shrapnel and car parts - in ultra slow motion", as it grows in "hard to explain yourself out of it-ness".
I mean I could understand a soft ware glitch on one or several systems, taking random photos at random times....
Before it the fault was rectified by dedicated effort to fix it;
But this...... LOL
It's looking like acquiring a jumbo sized butt plug lubed with super glue in a non consensual manner.
LOL - Fuck them all.
Never thought much of most people in the education system in the first place.
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