The Google account had course material, email data and various other documents stored online in Google’s servers, a practice common amongst companies, educational departments and any other organization that needs to hold data cheaply and securely.
The Indianapolis-based American College of Education were storing data and material relating to the studies and education of over 2,000 students who were fairly concerned when they couldn’t log into the school account.
Representatives from the school then contacted the recently dismissed IT worker, who said that he would be happy to assist; for a fee of $200,000.
“A lot of organizations are using cloud-based services and online services like this. Even under a good situation, somebody could leave and then you find out the cloud service you depend on gets canceled because maybe the bill didn’t get paid.” – Von Welch, director of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cyber security Research.
The college offers masters and doctorate degrees to teachers across America. It has a headquarters in Indianapolis but much of the learning is done online. Therefore, the staff can be located anywhere in the country until a policy change last year asked all IT staff to move to the office in Indianapolis or face losing their jobs. Most of the staff quit which left Triano Williams as the lone administrator of the colleges IT systems. He refused to leave Chicago and was dismissed when the deadline had breached, but not before he’d changed the passwords on the college Google account.
After a few failed login attempts from confused students, Google suspended the account and when contacted, revealed that their policy states that they will only reset the password for the listed Admin; Triano Williams. Mr Williams, when asked, directed the school to his lawyer who revealed the demands.
“In order to amicably settle this dispute, Mr. Williams requires a clean letter of reference and payment of $200,000” – Calvita J. Frederick
Williams also filed a lawsuit claiming unfair dismissal and racially aggravated harassment whilst at work. He stated that a move wasn’t in the original contract, and he couldn’t move from Chicago as he had a young daughter.
“The reality is the college created this problem over the course of the last several years as a result of certain business decisions followed by the termination of certain key employees. He’s got a lot of damages as a result of what’s happened.” Calvita J. Frederick
But don’t get any ideas just yet; things didn’t end well for Williams.
Whilst the court cases for harassment have continued, the judges haven’t recently looked favorably on the ransom tactics employed by Williams and asked the Google to try and return control of the account to the school. Google decided that Williams was effectively hacking them and they returned the control. You might think that would be the end of it, but the school decided to sue Williams for the ransom and they demanded $250,000 in damages.
Only in America..
“When everything was done on paper, there were committees and audits and physical protections to make sure documents were protected and managed. We’ve got to do the same thing in an E-world. You can outsource some of the processing, but you can’t outsource the responsibility.” Gene Spafford – Director of Purdue University