Three former Cornell students, who had faced a total of forty computer tampering and related charges in connection with the creation and release of the MBDF virus affecting Macintosh computers this February, struck a plea-bargain agreement here in Ithaca yesterday.
David Blumenthal and Mark Pilgrim, each of whom had faced felony first degree computer tampering charges, pleaded guilty to one count each of second degree computer tampering, a misdemeanor. Randall Swanson pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct. Swanson was not originally implicated in the case when the virus was traced to Blumenthal and Pilgrim, but was charged this summer.
None of the three are currently enrolled for the fall semester at Cornell University. Although the University is prohibited by federal law from revealing the outcome of disciplinary action against students, unofficial word has it that some of the students have been expelled from the University, and the other(s) suspended for at least one year. An August 27th memorandum from William Streett, the Dean of Cornell’s College of Engineering to "Engineering Students and Other Users of Cornell Computing Facilities," referred to an unnamed group of students who had been charged with violating Cornell’s Code of Academic Integrity "as a result of improper and unauthorized use of computers and network systems." Streett said that the punishments in these cases "include expulsion and suspension for a year or more." The memo went on to remind students of their responsibility in maintaining academic integrity standards in computer use, and suggested that students with special talents in computing and network systems "put these to constructive use by tutoring other students or through volunteer work with one of the local social service agencies."
The plea bargain arrangement specifies that the State will not seek jail time or fines when the three are sentenced this October. Each will have to pay $2,476 in restitution (for virus-related damages to computers and users). Blumenthal and Pilgrim will also have to fulfill community service requirements, forfeit their personal computer systems, and face probation.