| Hacker’s day out
New Delhi, Oct. 6: As IIT Delhi teacher Anand Shankar scanned his email two weeks ago on the institute’s local area network, something puzzled him.
“I just happened to notice how slow the usually superfast Net had become,” the assistant professor in the institute’s geology department said.
Others, too, complained but no reason could be found till a closer scrutiny revealed that someone was snooping on the entire network, making the connectivity slower.
A saboteur at the premier tech institute'
It was just a third-year computer science student who, having nothing better to do, had cracked the systems administrator’s password. In between seeking seven-figure salary jobs and surviving the tightest of study schedules, IIT Delhi students have been amusing themselves by playing pranks on faculty and administration.
And what’s so far averted stern action is the authorities’ admiration for the ingenuity behind the hi-tech capers, reminiscent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where such escapades are a tradition.
IIT is keeping mum on the matter for fear of putting off campus recruiters, but administration sources say such mischief is increasing.
The third-year student’s prank had affected almost everybody on the campus, where all members of the administration and faculty and most students have an official iitd.ac.in email address.
IIT immediately hauled up the student, and a panel meeting was called to decide if he should be expelled. But most at the meeting were just too impressed by the student’s ingenuity to vote to throw him out.
“It requires a brilliant mind to be able to access all the emails through the LAN. How could we punish him for his brilliance'” a senior member of the administration said.
The institute’s concern about its own reputation was another reason. “Had he been rusticated, the matter could have become public, particularly if his parents chose to legally fight the decision, bringing disrepute to the institute,” a professor said.
The student, who reportedly said he hacked the system out of boredom, was just suspended for two days.
A couple of months ago, institute authorities had discovered to their shock that all phone lines were being monitored by an MTech student. Again, purely for “pass-time”.
All IIT teachers have two phone connections — one with an internal IIT number and the other a direct line — at their residences, and Malay Singh had apparently worked out a way of tapping all the IIT numbers.
For all the technical wizardry behind their stunts, the IIT tricksters may have yet to catch up with their peers at Massachusetts for sheer wit and sense of mischief. In 1998, on All Fools’ Day, MIT’s homepage was rebuilt to announce that the Walt Disney Company had bought the institute for $6.9 billion.