Blue Bell man admits tampering with Gwynedd Mercy computer system
NORRISTOWN >> A former faculty member of Gwynedd Mercy University was given probation after admitting to harassment by hacking into the school’s intranet.
Edward Michael Shaffer, 54, of the 200 block of Pebble Beach Place in Blue Bell, pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor harassment charge Monday in Montgomery County Court, according to court documents. He was given a sentence of 60 days of probation.
Shaffer was charged with a number of computer-related crimes after university authorities discovered that sections of the school’s Blackboard site, through which students look at classes and access assignments and information from teachers, had been tampered with, according to a criminal complaint.
Shaffer had been hired by the university to teach a finance course, the complaint said. He was not asked to return to teach the course during the summer of 2014. Another faculty member then discovered that the course had been deleted from the online system. Students could not access their own work or grades from the course.
In addition, investigators said in the complaint that other changes had been made to the system, including making the master course guide “unusable” and changing navigation buttons on the site to “random, unreadable gibberish of keystrokes.”
A system administrator determined that Shaffer had not had his access to Blackboard revoked, and that it was his login information that was used to access the information, the complaint said.
Shaffer pleaded guilty in front of Judge Garrett D. Page in a plea agreement, court documents state. Additional charges of unlawful use of a computer, disruption of service, computer theft and computer trespassing were dismissed. Shaffer was ordered to have no contact with university faculty through social media.