The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Snyder County

April 16, 2014

Email security breach could be a crime

MIDDLEBURG — Even though acting Midd-West Superintendent Daphne Snook may not have broken school policy by monitoring district emails, Valley legal experts say she still may have broken the law.

Snook was suspended without pay during the Midd-West school board meeting Monday night pending the outcome of a criminal investigation into a breach in the district’s email system.

Snook admitted to briefly monitoring board email correspondence, which she said is allowed under the district’s policy on acceptable Internet use. The policy states that electronic mail in the district’s system is not guaranteed to be private and may be reviewed by building and system administrators.

Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch confirmed Tuesday an investigation is ongoing and said there are statutes in the law that address security breaches that would include emails, but declined to comment further.

The alleged breach was discovered by accident, and Piecuch was notified immediately, board President Victor Abate told a large crowd who attended Monday’s meeting.

Piecuch said he referred the board’s complaint to Middleburg police for investigation. “I will wait to hear a report from the Middleburg police department,” he said Tuesday.

Piecuch would not get into specifics of the investigation and would not say why a superintendent would not be able to read emails.

Section 7613 of Pennsylvania law related to computer offenses states that a person commits an offense if he “unlawfully accesses or exceeds his authorization to access any data from a computer, computer system or computer network or takes or copies any supporting documentation whether existing or residing internal or external to a computer, computer system or computer network of another with the intent to deprive him thereof.”

Another section, 7611, states an offense occurs if someone uses computer access to “interrupt the normal functioning of a person or to devise or execute any scheme or artifice to defraud or deceive or control property or services by means of false or fraudulent pretenses.”

Another section states an “alleged offender can intentionally or knowingly and without authorization gives or publishes a password, identifying code, personal identification number or other confidential information about a computer, computer system, computer network, computer database, World Wide Web site or telecommunication device.”

All three violations could be third-degree felonies.

Snook, who earned $106,000, was the district’s assistant superintendent and director of curriculum, instruction and technology when former superintendent Wesley Knapp announced his resignation in October. Snook received $300 each month in addition to her salary for her role as acting superintendent.

Middleburg police did not return a call for comment.

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