Hacker of UGA calendar pays price for ‘Greatest prank ever’, made to do community service
Ryan Gregory Pickren, a Georgia Tech student who had hacked University of Georgia computers and added an event that read “Get Ass Kicked by GT,” to the UGA master calendar two days before the annual football matchup in 2014 has announced that the charges against him have been dropped.
Pricken has today cleared his name from all charges through community service. “Today all of the charges regarding my incident with the University of Georgia have officially been dismissed,” he posted on his Facebook site Thursday. “I would like to take a moment to tell my story about how I ended up in a jail cell Christmas 2014.”
Pickren, a computer engineering major, “became desensitized to the impact that a computer breach could have on organizations. But I was about to learn the hard way that not all “research” ends with cash rewards and free merchandise,” he wrote.
Explaining how and why he posted what he did on his Facebook page, he said, “While sitting in my room waiting for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided that I was going to play a prank. I pulled up the University of Georgia’s homepage and started poking around. A few minutes later I stumbled upon their master calendar for campus events. I will spare you the technical details, but I had a hunch that I could circumvent their approval process by carefully forming an HTTP POST request.”
“In shock that it actually worked, I ran downstairs to show my parents what I had done,” Pickren continued. “I informed them that IT departments these days would find it funny and that the university expects pranks this time of year. My family laughed and gave me high fives.”
Later that night, an ESPN reporter discovered it and wrote about it. The prank received media attention that quickly spread from just ESPN to outlets across the Internet and the Southeast. An investigation was launched by UGA’s police department, who a few weeks later charged him with felony computer trespass for finding what Pricken done was illegal.
He was given a legal diversion that would keep him out of jail and drop charges in return for community service, an apology and keeping his nose clean. Pickren served Atlanta non-profits, helping them safeguard their websites against hacks.
It however did not impress legal authorities in Athens that his addition to the calendar was true. Georgia Tech beat UGA 30-24.
Pickren spent Christmas Eve 2014 in a jail cell, but ultimately begged out of the charges into pre-trial diversion and finished compulsory community service.
Currently, Pickren is still a Georgia Tech student and is expected to graduate with a degree in computer engineering.