BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - The Butte County District Attorney has filed criminal charges against a 22-year-old suspect for illegally hacking multiple computers at California State University, Chico.
Mike Ramsey, the Butte County District Attorney, said an investigation lead to Alejandro Benitez.
Ramsey said Benitez hacked Chico State computers that lead to an internet posting of a list of University students who applied for COVID-19 vaccination exemptions.
Benitez is a recent Chico State graduate and worked for the Information Technology Support Services Office at Chico State.
The investigation began when a Sacramento newspaper published an article in August describing a spreadsheet that included vaccine exemption requests from 130 Chico State students.
Included in the spreadsheet were the students’ names and their personal information was included in 18 of the entries.
Ramsey added that Chico State University Police was able to examine and backtrace the posting to Benitez.
Police determined that a Chico State professor told the media about the online post. The professor told police he told the media and his union in hopes of any potential civil rights and privacy violations would be investigated, according to Ramsey.
Ramsey said the professor will not be facing charges as the criminal conduct in the case is unlawfully accessing the computers.
Benitez was able to get the confidential exemption list by accessing at least two computers assigned to Chico State administrators. Benitez then download numerous files which included the spreadsheet.
Benitez attempted to redact the students personal identifying information by replacing the data column with student emails with “anonymous” but Bentiz never saw the student’s identification was located in a different column of the spreadsheet, according to Ramsey.
Benitez has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of unauthorized computer access and he faces up to two years in county jail.
A warrant will be issued for Benitez’s arrest if he does not voluntarily appear in court.