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School pupils expelled for hacking computer system and changing grades

Eleven students have been expelled from a wealthy Southern Californian school for allegedly hacking teachers’ computers and changing their grades, it has today been uncovered.

It is believed that keyloggers were utilised and installed on computers that in turn helped pupils to gain remote access to the system, so they could then edit their grades.

The school in question of this hacking scandal is Corona Del Mar High School, in Newport Beach, California. Newport Beach police are keen to interview a private tutor 28-year-old Timothy Lai, who Investigators say that he “assisted the students in compromising school computers and manipulating grades”. These are all currently allegations and nothing else.

Keyloggers are a type of surveillance software (considered to be either software or spyware) that has the capability to record every keystroke you make to a log file, usually encrypted. A keylogger recorder can record instant messages, e-mail, and any information you type at any time using your keyboard. The log file created by the keylogger can then be sent to a specified receiver. Some keylogger programs will also record any e-mail addresses you use and Web site URLs you visit. Thus all the information needed to perform this kind of ruse would be relatively insignificant.

Often part of malware packages, some keylogger software is freely available on the internet, and some can hide in amongst spyware. Keyloggers are also used in IT organisations to remotely log into computers to trouble-shoot issues.

According to court documents, ‘the police were first made aware of the cheating scandal back in June last year when a science teacher, Kim Rapp, told school administrators that someone may have accessed her computer and changed grades’. In a statement to the police, one of the students alleges that he and Mr Lei had gone to the school late at night to place a keylogger on the computer of a chemistry teacher.

It is believed that the hardware keylogger was used to snoop on teachers’ logins and password details with the stolen codes used to access information about forthcoming tests and to change grades in previous exams, thus allowing them to access the information.

Corona Del Mar High School representatives claim that they’re looking into the scope of the cheating scandal and that school officials are re-examining 750,000 grades.

Expulsion – the fate of the pupils allegedly involved – was decided at a vote among School District board members on Tuesday

Six of the students involved had already left the school and the remaining five have been transferred to another local school.

Parents of four of the accused have questioned why their children have been targeted.

The school said in a statement, that it continued “an intensive audit of all teachers’ grade books so that we can ensure the integrity and accuracy of all posted grades”.

“Despite needing some time to wrestle with the disappointment of this unfortunate incident, we are confident that the school community will rise above this event,” it added.

“The ever-increasing use of technology in education keeps raising new problems, from security and privacy viewpoints,” said frightened security consultant John Hawes in the Naked Security blog.

“Kids are endlessly inquisitive so it will always be a challenge to keep them out of things they want to pry into, but it shouldn’t be beyond our capabilities,” he added.

He recommended that schools block all access to test and grade data from terminals accessible to students and provide teachers with access to a segregated network.

Children are increasingly proving themselves more than capable of bypassing security in schools.

In Los Angeles, schoolchildren quickly unlocked locked-down iPads they were given, and last year, antivirus firm AVG revealed that children as young as 11 were writing malicious code to hack accounts on gaming sites and social networks.

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