How an A-grade prank by a hacker closed a school for a day
Pupil suspended after message on website told parents classes were cancelled due to snow
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Saturday 18 February 2012
In days gone by it would have been Jennings and Darbishire making one of their "frantic bishes".
Or Richmal Crompton's William outwitting members of the posh boys' rival gang, the Hubert Laneites.
Now, though, the schoolboy prankster has entered the digital world – and perpetrated one of the more audacious deceptions.
It was Saturday, 4 February, and the first snowflakes of 2012 were falling all around London.
Doubtless, some pupils fervently hoped it would lead to their school being closed the following Monday morning, on the grounds that it was too treacherous to open.
The trouble is that their school, the Jewish Free School in Harrow, north London, was quick off the mark – and posted a message on its website telling parents that it would be classes as usual at the start of the following week.
Some pupils, it would appear, had other ideas.
Within hours, a computer hacker had managed to bring down the school's website, leaving parents unable to check if the school would be open as usual on Monday.
But not content with that, the hackers are then said to have created a fake email purporting to come from the school and telling parents that the school would be closed due to heavy snow.
Many older pupils were absent from the school on the Monday owing to the success of the hack and the spreading of the fake email, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
Students on social networking sites were openly discussing the plan to take down the website, urging the hackers to keep it closed. One said: "Kids were going crazy over this... Students who they were not even friendly with managed to find out about what they had done."
But as with many of the schoolboy pranksters from literature, the culprits have not escaped completely unscathed.
In this regard, remember Billy Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove, who was forever being found out after attempting to pilfer tuck from his fellow pupils.
In his day, it was six of the best from the headmaster and loud cries of "yarooh" (hooray backwards) from Bunter himself.
That punishment is obviously not applicable today, though.
In the case of the hacker, the Jewish Chronicle reports that the school has identified some of those believed to be behind the website's hacking and that at least one pupil has been suspended.
The school was closed for the half-term yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
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