It wasn’t the first time Daniel Beckwitt had been in trouble with the law.
After an unusual upbringing as a homeschooler, he went to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and struggled to make friends.
“If you got a chance to know him, he’s a nice guy,” his own lawyer said at his sentencing. “He’s just weird, in his own way.”
When he went to school at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, he struggled to make friends.
“He was really smart but didn’t have a lot of social concepts, you know?” a friend of his from the university said. “He just didn’t understand like the social concepts, meeting people, and talking to them.”
Never a standout student, his friend (who asked to remain anonymous) said Beckwitt didn’t care much for classes, and rarely went.
The friend explained once Beckwitt’s mother died and his father got sick, it was a turning point.
He said Beckwitt had spent time previously on internet forums, but his parents had encouraged him to spend less time online.
“I know his parents told him not to do that kind of stuff,” he said. “They were really the guiding light in his life.”
The Verge reported Beckwitt found some success as a hacker, and presented research at security conferences like DefCon and SchmooCon.
Eventually, Beckwitt was arrested for his role in a hacking scheme - where he was accused of sending emails from another student’s account, placing “keyloggers” on computers in a computer lab that recorded information of people using those public computers - and impersonating a professor to email students their final was canceled, when it was not.
“It was an elaborate attack on the University of Illinois’ computer engineering department,” prosecutors said Monday. “It went on for months and it was calculated.”
The student newspaper reported he served 24 months probation, paid more than $2,000 in fees and court costs, and $22,793.32 in restitution to the University of Illinois.
His college friend said he wasn’t surprised by that case in the slightest, and it seemed as though he had not learned his lesson. But, he said, Beckwitt didn’t set out to kill Khafra.
“In my heart, I know Dan did not intentionally try to murder that kid. Dan was just sloppy. I know he was doing something stupid, like daisy chaining extension cords,” he said. “I think it really was just a stupid mistake. But sometimes you just make stupid mistakes and lives change and you end up in jail.”