College student gets a year in the slammer for keylogging student accounts to rig election

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order

Vote for me. Image courtesy of ShutterstockOn the last day of the four-day 2012 election for student council, computer techs noticed that something was a bit off with one of the university's computers.

Viewing it remotely, they noted that whoever was using the computer cast vote after vote.

The techs then watched the mysteriously multi-voting user log into the account of a university official. There, he read an email from a student who complained that the system was preventing her from voting.

There were actually quite a few students who couldn't vote in that election, because their login details had been electronically pickpocketed by the same young man who was running for student council president.

That man, former California State University San Marcos student Matthew Weaver, has been found guilty of using keyloggers to steal nearly 750 student passwords, many of which he then used to log in to others' accounts and to then fraudulently cast votes for himself and four of his fraternity brothers.

On Monday Weaver was sentenced in federal court to a year in prison, according to the U-T San Diego.

Authorities said that Weaver installed keyloggers on 19 school computers, managed to steal credentials for a whopping 745 students, and cast ballots from the accounts of 630 of them.

When campus police tracked him down, Weaver was sitting at a school computer with the keyloggers.

Weaver, now 22, was a third-year business student when he cooked up the scheme to rig the March 2012 election. He started months in advance, with police finding a PowerPoint presentation he'd created earlier in the year.

The presentation proposed running for president along with four of his frat brothers, who would run as vice presidents.

Weaver's presentation noted that his intended position came with a $8,000 stipend, while the vice presidents each stood to get a $7,000 stipend, for a total of $36,000.

Police also found traces of Weaver's research into the matter, including computer searches on such phrases as "how to rig an election" and "jail time for keylogger".

Then, a month prior to the election, Weaver bought three keyloggers, in the form of small electronic devices, to surreptitiously record keystrokes.

Keyboard. Image courtesy of ShutterstockBecause landing in jail for a brief stint obviously wasn't enough to convince him that wire fraud isn't a wise course, he and a friend cooked up a business plan of action that was even worse: to attempt to deflect the blame, they created fake Facebook pages using names of real students, posted fake conversations, and tried to make it look like the students had framed him.

Those manufactured conversations were sent to reporters at a few media outlets, but none fell for it, the U-T San Diego reports.

Weaver pleaded guilty to three federal charges, including wire fraud and unauthorized access to a computer.

As the judge pointed out to the U-T San Diego, Weaver jumped from the frying pan into the fire - or, in the judge's own words, he was "on fire" for the crime, and then he went and poured gasoline on it to try to cover it up.

Don't try this at home, kids. Don't play with matches, and don't mess with keyloggers.

Image of Vote For Me and keyboard courtesy of Shutterstock.

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11 Responses to College student gets a year in the slammer for keylogging student accounts to rig election

  1. Mary Jo Anhalt · 464 days ago

    There is a Federal Law against unauthorized use of a computer? Who snuck that one in?

    • Machin Shin · 464 days ago

      Don't guess you have heard of the "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act" a horribly written law where by it is possible to argue violations of a pages terms of service is a felony.

      It is painfully obvious that those making the laws have no understanding of what they are doing when a computer is involved. The United States has a collection of laws that were very poorly worded resulting in pretty much everyone committing multiple felonies every time they touch a computer.

  2. herzco · 464 days ago

    I support the verdict here. The idea of rigging an election is bad enough, and to do so by preventing others from voting is terrible. (In the "old" days, people would vote using the social security numbers of dead people etc).

    Though just a school election, also chilling to note that the entire IDEA of ethics and of his responsibilities, and the meaning of those responsibilities, as an "elected official" did not seem to ever enter into his head: Only winning at all costs.

    • Lisa Vaas · 464 days ago

      True, but it wasn't just winning he had in mind. It was also a sweet little $36,000.

      But right, this is somebody bound for Wall Street, eh? With business ethics like this guy has, I say Good luck, us!

      • rareym · 463 days ago

        Most politicians are like that(at least where I am).20-30 years ago,stuffing up paper ballots was pretty common

  3. Guest616 · 464 days ago

    I think its funny they found searches for "how to rig an election" and "jail time for keylogger". The guy cannot even clear his history let alone use proxies when planning his master crimes. He was even caught using the keyloggers at a school computer, like as in the library? HAHAHA

    • Lisa Vaas · 464 days ago

      Seriously! Yes! Well said! I was mulling writing about how he could have done the crime better, but readers tend to chastise me when I do that.

      I always say, Anybody this dopey isn't reading Naked Security, else they'd probably also be smart enough to research proper crime execution, but really, I guess I still shouldn't be writing crime tutorials.

  4. ellen · 464 days ago

    Lyndon Johnson rigged school elections; then went on to rig political elections. Look what happened to him!!

    • Lisa Vaas · 464 days ago

      Has anybody here read Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test?" CEOs, yup. Psychos. Very high incidence of sociopaths work their way up that high. Not that this guy is necessarily a sociopath. But I'd love to see Jon Ronson meet him and run down the checklist. Not that Ronson is clinically competent to do so, but just because it's always fun to see him psuedo-analyze criminals.

      • Guest · 463 days ago

        Yes! Last year I read The Psychopath Test. No, Ronson is not a clinically licensed psychoanalyst, but his book is fun to read. I too would love to see Ronson (or better yet, Robert Hare) run down the psychopathy checklist on Weaver.

        I bet that Weaver will do well professionally and socially in the future - his yearlong stint (possibly with time off for good behavior) in the stripy hole notwithstanding.

        Psychopaths (and narcissists) fit in well socially and tend to ace job interviews. Often charming, psychopaths always have a posse that will protect them from the consequences of their (criminal) actions.

        I wish parents would discipline their children when said children bully or harm others.

  5. Lese Majeste · 462 days ago

    Weaver for president in 2024!

    Even if he loses, he can get the Surpreme Court to appoint him prez.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.