Police drop felony charges against UT senior accused of hacking registration site

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Travis County district court dropped a felony charge against international relations senior Garret Phillips, whom UTPD said used a software program to hack UT’s registration website during the April 2012 late enrollment period.

The website was inaccessible for more than three hours, according to UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey. The attack occurred during a registration time scheduled for students classified as juniors.

UTPD arrested Phillips in October 2012, and Phillips has since completed a pretrial diversion program, a six-month agreement requiring community service and a $150 fee. Phillips’ completion of the program led to the dismissal of the state jail felony, according to court records filed Jan. 30.

Phillips’ defense lawyer, Sam Bassett, could not be reached for comment.

Campus police said Phillips, then 19, launched a “denial of service” attack that overloaded the site’s servers with fake communication requests and prevented a few thousand students from accessing the site during their scheduled registration periods.

At the time of Phillips’ arrest, Sgt. Charles Bonnet said students’ personal information, including Social Security and credit card numbers, was not compromised in the attack.

According to the arrest affidavit, the UT information technology office was able to trace the attack back to Phillips’ laptop. Police then used the IP address of the computer to locate Phillips’ residence in the Dobie Center.

Since the attack, the University has added back-up websites that students can be redirected to in the case of server malfunction.