Manatee School Board candidate guilty of website hacking


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David Levin’s background in technology and politics took him to prison over five years ago. Now he hopes to learn from the past and bring his skills to the Manatee County School Board.

In an interview Thursday, Levin said he hoped to keep mask mandates and critical race theory out of local schools, and bring new technology and financial oversight to the district. They were among his main goals ahead of the November 2022 elections.

Another priority, he said, was to overcome a mistake of years past.

Levin, who is currently running unopposed for the District 2 school board seat, made headlines after violating the Lee County Election Supervisor website in 2015, followed by the Election Division website in Tallahassee shortly thereafter.

The cyber attacks led to three felony counts which were later demoted to two misdemeanors. He pleaded guilty and served 20 days in prison.

According to a May 2016 arrest warrant, law enforcement learned of the attack after Levin and his business partner Dan Sinclair publicly spoke about the violation.

Sinclair, who was running at the time to become Lee County’s next election supervisor, is said to have met Levin at a Young Republicans event. And although Sinclair was unaware of the breach until Levin approached him after the fact, the two worked together to draw attention to the website’s vulnerabilities, police said.

“On January 25, 2016, Sinclair and Levin posted two YouTube videos explaining the SQL injection that was performed on the Lee County Election Office website,” the warrant reads. “Levin explained that an SQL injection attack tricks the system into giving you information that might otherwise not be available to the public.”

Levin shared the same information during an interview with a TV station in Fort Myers. And about two weeks after the violation, the warrant continues, Levin also infiltrated the Tallahassee Election Division website.

Levin’s own company, Vanguard Cybersecurity, sent a report on the two attacks to the State Department – a document that was quickly passed to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Portrait of David M. Levin
David Michael Levin Photo provided

In an interview with the Bradenton Herald, Levin said he was curious about election integrity and took a Certified Ethical Hacker course around the same time. He used this knowledge to access the Lee County Elections website as an administrator.

“I was shocked and a little horrified to find out that he was absolutely unprotected,” he said on Thursday.

On May 4, 2016, police arrested Levin on three counts of unauthorized access to a computer, computer system, computer network or electronic device.

But after agreeing to a plea deal, the court found Levin guilty of two misdemeanors and he served 20 days in jail, as well as two years of probation.

“It was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made in my life, the way I handled everything,” Levin said of the hacking incident. “I made it very political and it affected my life for a few years.”

Levine, 36, is now a Bradenton resident and the father of three children, including a 5 year old and a 6 year old who attend a public charter school in Manatee County.

For the future, he plans to sit in the place of District 2 of the Manatee County School Board, a position Charlie Kennedy has held since 2014. As of Friday morning, Kennedy had yet to apply for re-election.

District 2 includes over half a dozen elementary schools: Ballard, Manatee, Palm View, Samoset, Tillman, Johnson, and GD Rogers Garden-Bullock.

It also includes Lincoln and Johnson Colleges, as well as Southeast High School.

“I’m running for the school board because I have concerns about what’s going on here and across the country,” Levin said. “I have three kids, I’m a dad and I think that’s an archetype we want on set.”

Levin talks landscaping and marijuana taxes

Levin’s campaign slogan is “education, not indoctrination”. At the top of his priority list are two hot issues that have made headlines in Florida in recent months.

“First, I strongly oppose mask mandates, and even more strongly oppose critical race theory,” Levin said on his campaign website.

The school board’s mask mandate is currently due to expire on October 29. Manatee also followed state instructions and gave parents the option to opt out, meaning the warrant is voluntary, indeed.

And Critical Race Theory, or CRT, is a decades-old examination of racism and its influence on American laws and institutions. State and local education officials said CRT was not included in Florida’s curriculum.

“Hopefully by the time this election comes to a head, these will be in the rearview mirror and we can focus on education, campuses and kids,” Levin said.

Another concern for Levin was the safety and appearance of local campuses. As someone who loves to run, he often walks past local schools and sometimes takes care of their upkeep.

Levin brought up his concerns during a conversation about finances and cutting spending.

“There are some positions you don’t need,” Levin said in Thursday’s interview. “If you need them, they don’t do the job. I know we have gardeners in Samoset and Ballard, but I picked up four or five bags of trash in and around this campus.

“I also trimmed the hedges and mowed the public right-of-way outside Ballard,” he continued. “There are things that don’t get done and we pay people to do them. If you get paid to do the job, get the job done, and we won’t have to hire so many other people to take over.

On his Facebook page, “David Levin for School Board”, he shared photos of the trimmed hedges, as well as a video of himself running down Ninth Avenue West and making a remark about a nearby school, calling it ” minimum security prison or prison “.

In the video, he said that better landscaping and iron fencing – not the chain link fences currently in place – would help local schools become “a place where children are inspired to learn, not a place where children are inspired to learn. place where they count the minutes until they are retrieved. go home.”

He was also considering a technology upgrade in schools and district offices, noting on his website that “classrooms, both in person and online, should be equipped with the best, and that doesn’t mean the best. more expensive “.

As for the district’s finances, Levin said he opposes a $ 1 million property tax that was first approved by voters in Manatee County in March 2018, and now makes l subject to a renewal vote on November 2. He said the school board should maximize its current budget and not rely on special taxes.

There was a tax, however, that Levin would support.

“It’s not popular,” he said. “My wife is strongly against this, but marijuana deals are done in the hundreds, if not thousands, every day in Manatee County. I don’t think all of this goes to schools and I think it should. “

Who is David Michael Levin?

His education began at the New York Military Academy. It was the same prep school former President Donald Trump attended in the 1960s, Levin noted.

“Even though there is a big gap between when I left and when he left, I was fortunate to have one of the same mentors,” he said. “His name was Colonel Dobias and he was an old man when I was there. ”

“But one thing he did was keep this campus pristine,” Levin continued. “I think all the cadets have probably recognized that, and I think that has value. I think there is some pride. You can lift your head a little higher and walk to school that way.

From there, Levin said he went to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. But after attending military schools since eighth grade, Levin said he quickly exhausted himself and decided to transfer before graduating from West Point.

Levin said he joined the University of Albany and worked on a bachelor’s degree. During that time, he also served as a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist in the U.S. Army Reserve, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He went on to earn a master’s degree in politics from SUNY Empire State College, and while working on that degree, Levin said, he also entered the political arena.

“I started working on political campaigns,” he said. “The first was for David Bellavia, then the recipient of the Silver Star, but then he won a Medal of Honor. . . . This was in 2012. It was his first campaign in Congress.

Most recently, Levin said he graduated as a Juris Doctor from the Cooley Law School campus in Tampa. He also listed several jobs on his resume:

  • CBRN Specialist for the US Army Reserve from 2005 to 2010.
  • Accessor of specimens at Labcorp from 2008 to 10.
  • Independent consultant at Political Precision LLC, his own company, from 2012 to 2016.
  • Intern at Gulfcoast Legal Services from 2020-21.
  • Website, database and lead services for various insurance companies from 2017 to present.

To learn more about Levin and his campaign, visit www.bettermanateeschools.com or facebook.com/BetterManateeSchools.

You can also reach Levin by emailing [email protected]

This story was originally published October 8, 2021 1:47 pm.

Giuseppe Sabella, education reporter for the Bradenton Herald, holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He has spent time at the Independent Florida Alligator, the Gainesville Sun, and the Florida Times-Union. His coverage of education in Manatee County earned him a top prize in the 2019 Florida Society of News Editors Journalism Competition. Giuseppe also spent a year in Charleston, W.Va., winning a first place award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @Gsabella

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