Freshman: “Swat Hackers”

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

After being accepted into a college, the anticipation of finding out your roommate is frustrating. Swarthmore makes its freshman wait several month since freshman dorm and roommate assignments are released in at the end of July. Most generations of Swatties have learned to wait it out.

The class of 2012 was different.

Eight freshman decided they wanted to find out earlier and created a group called “Swat Hackers.” The members included Jack Nicoludis, Linnet Davis Stermitz, Holly Kinnamont, Omari Scott, Natalia Cote, Michelle Walters, Adam Chuong, and Hannah Edelman.

The group formed when these freshman realized that dorm telephone numbers were posted via the MySwarthmore page, but no other housing information was available.

However, these students realized that they could use their telephone information to find their rooming assignments.

Nicoludis found instructions posted on Swarthmore’s ITS page to download Cisco Virtual Private Network (VPN), a program that allows access to Swarthmore’s resources from off-campus. Users must be registered Swarthmore community members with a valid password.

Through Cisco VPN, Nicoludis gained access to Cygnet, an online student directory that lists students’ rooming assignments and phone extension numbers.

“At that time, unfortunately our profiles are uploaded yet, but last year’s [was]. Therefore, I searched my extension [redacted] to find that it was connected to room [redacted] in [redacted]” posted Nicoludis on the online Class of 2012 forum.

To spread this information to the rest of his class, he posted the information on Facebook and the hacking instructions on the Class of 2012 forum.

Within two weeks, the thread had over 196 posts.

Nicloudis saw his hacking project as a service to the freshman class.

“I mean, I was really excited to find this information out, and I knew that everyone else was just as excited, so I felt like I could help them out and relieve their anxiety.” he said.

However, two weeks later, the phone numbers were taken down from the MySwarthmore page.

Gayle Barton, Chief Information Technology Officer, was amused by the stunt. “Some students used tools that are available to them and then used creative detective work to learn about roommates and dorms,” she said.

No action will be taken against the students.

The official freshman dorm and roommate assignments were posted a week later on MySwarthmore, affirming the information Nicoludis and others found.

Nicoludis saw the project as a bonding experience for the freshman. “There was an excitement of finding out where we’re living for the next year, and we started to talk to our roommates.

Threads on the the Swarthmore College Class of 2012 discussion board with names like Holla for Hollawell and Possible Mertizies/Mertzians indicated an early camaraderie among the future classmates.

Stermitz, who assisted Nicoludis, said, “I thought that it was the collaborative spirit that was so splendidly Swat.”

0 comments

  1. 0
    Peter '11 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    haha, awesome. And while it’s accurate to say this isn’t hacking and there’s nothing wrong with it, good job Swarthmore for not freaking out about a little creativity/ingenuity.

  2. 0
    Kim ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The term “Swat Hackers” was coined by the freshman themselves. We all knew there was no actual hack, the name just came about.

    When the dorm numbers were taken down, there was a lot of craziness going about how we would get in trouble and such. That is why I felt it needed to be said that there would be no action taken and by no means did I want to imply that any actual wrong doing was done.

    Thanks for reading the article! It is my first, and I am really glad you all took time to comment it.

  3. 0
    D. says:

    “Hacking” here is certainly not the appropriate term, though I suppose it’s the one they used themselves. Anyway, kudos to these kids: that wait is far longer than it needs to be, and certainly felt unbearable when I went through it!

  4. 0
    Travis says:

    I’d like to clarify that, at least from my understanding of this article, nothing these freshmen did was against Swarthmore policy or circumvented any security measures. Since every class from 2011 on gets their network login mailed to them in the summer (bitter 2010 guy here), they were able to use the VPN system with their own credentials and use it in the intended manner. “No action will be taken against the students” makes it sound like they did something wrong, which is not the case.

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