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March 10, 2005

Harvard needs to go to school

I didn't blog about this yesterday, even though I found it interesting, but because I'd pushed it to ward the end of my list of stories to do, by the time I got to it I was getting worn out. First a summary of the initial story:

In a blanket rejection issued Monday, Harvard dashed the hopes of 119 applicants. MIT followed suit Tuesday, rejecting 32 applicants. Carnegie Mellon) was the first to act, delivering the bad news to its "hacker" applicants last week.

The New York applicant said he spent months completing Harvard's rigorous application process. He and two others who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said they did not consider their actions to be unethical.

Now some details. As I understand it, the online application was written rather poorly, and with little security. Some people, especially older people, still haven't “got” the internet. Each computer that's connected to the internet sends and receives data from people and sites. As you read this (assuming you're still online) your computer is connected to the internet, and actually is therefore a part of the internet. With firewalls and other protections we can section off the parts of our computers we don't want people to have access to, but it's generally the understanding that if you leave it accessible, it's open to the public.

That's hard for a lot of people to grasp. Why, you can't just walk in someone's front door uninvited?!? Yes, but the internet is not someone's house. Each server on the internet is just another computer, not all that much different from the one you're using now. The entire system is open, and to demand people to access it, is more like complaining because people look at your house while driving by.

So what did these “hackers” do? Someone found out that by removing the filename of the page they had access to, they could then have access to a different page not closed off from the public. So they did it, and looked for the results of their application. Now the dimwits at Harvard and other schools consider them “hackers” and unethical, because they dared look at what Harvard (and the other schools) left open and exposed on the internet.

Let's all please continue to laugh and mock the Neanderthals and Harvard, Carnegie Mellon and the other schools so they'll understand what morons they are making themselves out to be, and possibly not punish these applicants for the school's incompetence.

Posted by Jack Lewis at March 10, 2005 10:46 AM

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