Sudbury

Laurentian student who tried to help university by hacking computer system pleads guilty in court

A Laurentian University student who hacked the school computer system in 2017 has pleaded guilty to mischief. Spencer Brydges immediately reported the flaws in the system to the university, which responded by calling the police.

26-year-old sentenced to 12 months probation, 25 hours community service

Spencer Brydges has pleaded guilty to mischief for hacking into the Laurentian University computer system when he was a student in 2017. (Erik White/CBC)

Nearly two years after the Friday night when he decided to test out the computer system at Laurentian University, Spencer Brydges pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Sudbury courtroom.

Back in 2017, the computer science student was surprised that he could access the personal information of professors and other students.

Brydges then reported the flaw in the system to Laurentian University, which responded by shutting down its system, banning him from campus and calling Sudbury police.

A few months later Brydges was charged with unauthorized use of a computer system, mischief to data and breach of probation.

That ended with the 26-year-old pleading guilty to mischief in Sudbury court.

Brydges said that he has since completed a course in ethics and technology and has "greater insights" on what he did two years ago and why it caused "panic at the university." 

"When you test the system, it's not always possible for the owner of that system to understand your intentions," Brydges told the court.

Justice Randall Lalande said that when he first heard of the case "at first blush" it sounded like something that would warrant a "significant penalty."

12 months probation and 25 hours of community service

But he said after learning more, it now seems like a case of "adventurous academic curiosity."

"The university reacted and did what they did not because they were compromised, they did so to be on the safe side of the fence. It would not have been proper protocol for them to do nothing," Lalande told the court.

The judge accepted a joint submission from the Crown and defence and sentenced Brydges to 12 months probation and 25 hours of community service.

Brydges declined an interview after court, saying he was eager to move on with his life.

He eventually did complete his computer science degree at Laurentian University and used it to land a job with a tech company in Toronto, where his work includes testing online security systems. 

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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