State

College student from Kingwood accused of hacking UT computer

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A Kingwood college student is charged with a felony after investigators say he created a major disruption on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin without even leaving his dorm room.

UT police classify what happened as an attack. It was back in April while students were trying to sign up for classes and it created such a disruption that the registration site was down for three and a half hours. Now police believe it was the work of Garret Phillips, 19, of Kingwood. He's still enrolled at UT. In fact, his attorney says he went to class Monday.

Phillips turned himself in on Monday in Austin, posed for a mug shot and then posted bond. Once one of thousands at the University of Texas, now the Kingwood sophomore is infamous and in big trouble.

"Computer crimes carry tough sentences," said Dr. Terry Kidd, a technology ethics professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.

According to an affidavit, the attack on UT's website was done from Phillips' computer found inside his dorm room at Dobie Center. He's accused of using a program to flood the server with fake visitors, making it impossible for other students to log on, and crashing it altogether. It happened during a key registration period in April.

UT police believe the disruption, though, was his only goal.

"The type of attack that was launched against the university wasn't the type to extract any information. They didn't try to obtain any personal identification information and we have safeguards to keep that from happening," said Sgt. Charles Bonnet with the University of Texas police.

No one answered at the Kingwood home of Phillips' parents, where we know he had lived for at least a decade.

His attorney tells Eyewitness News despite the accusations, Phillips has no significant computer expertise, his major is still undecided, and that he went to class Monday and plans to keep going.

Dr. Kidd teaches students about the ethical responsibilities associated with technology and the importance of multiple security layers.

"When we think of the University of Austin, we think of this big, conglomerate institution and nothing can get in. But this case shows us that even the biggest of universities can also fall as well," Kidd said.

The university is taking steps to prevent this from happening again. According to the school's rules, Phillips does face discipline and his attorney says he's worried he'll be kicked out. He says others had access to his computer.

If convicted, Phillips faces up to two years in jail.

(Copyright ©2014 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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texas, kingwood, state, jessica willey
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