Man who hacked Chico State computers gets probation – Chico Enterprise-Record

OROVILLE — A 22-year-old Chico man suspected of illegally hacking numerous computers at Chico State University was sentenced to probation, fines and community service Thursday, according to Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.

Alejandro Benitez, a recent graduate of the university, appeared in Butte County Superior Court where he admitted to illegally taking information from numerous computers. A press release from Ramsey said that the illegal “hacking” led to the online posting of a list of students at the university who had applied for COVID-19 vaccine exemptions.

“The investigation began when a Sacramento newspaper published an article in August describing a spreadsheet that had been posted on several online forums,” Ramsey said in a press release.

Ramsey said an extensive investigation by the University Police Department led to Benitez, who worked in the Information Technology Support Services Office on the Chico State campus. The spreadsheet that was posted listed about 130 students who had made religious exemptions requests from the university’s vaccine mandate. In about 18 of the entries on the spreadsheet, student names and personal information were included.

Chico State police had examined the posted spreadsheet and were able to trace it back to Benitez. The police also discovered that a Chico State professor had tipped off the media about the online posts.

According to the press release, the professor told police that instead of alerting the university about his discovery, he decided to alert his union and the media about the posts. He had hoped that any potential civil rights and privacy violations would be investigated. Ramsey said in the press release that the professor will not be facing charges because his actions were not criminal. He said that the criminal conduct involved in the case was unlawfully accessing the university’s computers.


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