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UC Riverside Student Faces Hacking Charge

June 20, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A UC Riverside student from Moreno Valley was accused Thursday of hacking into a university computer in April to alter student election results -- by casting 800 write-in votes for "American Ninja."

Shawn Nematbakhsh, 21, was charged by the Riverside County district attorney's office with the felony of accessing computers illegally. If convicted, he faces as many as three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"His point was not to influence the election, but to allegedly show how easy it is to hack into the UC Riverside computer system. But that's like a guy burglarizing a home to prove how cheap its locks were," said Rod Pacheco, Riverside County chief-deputy district attorney.

Nematbakhsh hacked into a student services computer server, university spokesman Ricardo Duran said. He said Nematbakhsh will surrender today to campus police.

Prosecutors say the server included students' grades and school financial information. "The potential was there for a great deal of harm," Pacheco said.

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