High school students expelled for keylogging teacher computers

Eleven high school students are paying the price for keylogging their teacher's computers and changing grades as they willed.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
credit cnet
Credit: CNET

A number of high school students involved in a hacking scandal to change their grades have been expelled.

Taking place at a high school in Newport Beach, Southern California, a number of students used keyloggers in order to spy on their teachers' computer systems, infiltrate the network and change their grades electronically.

Six of the students have left the district, and five have been transferred to other schools.

The students in question allegedly worked with a local tutor to learn how to hack in to the school systems in order to change their grades and steal test papers. According to the LA Times, a science teacher sounded the alarm after becoming concerned that someone may have accessed her computer and altered grades.

Timothy Lai, the 28-year-old accused tutor, has apparently vanished. Officials say that the tutor instructed students to attach keylogger devices to the computers in order to scrape user login details and passwords, which would later be used to change student grades and access English, science and history exams -- some of which were at honor and Advanced Placement levels.

District officials say they are unsure of how many grades were changed, and are in the midst of examining the scope of the scandal. In total, 52,000 grades issued over 12 months are now under audit to work out whether grades were input by teachers or changed by network infiltrators.

In a statement, the Newport Mesa Unified School District said:

"The Board’s action imposes discipline upon these students for the maximum allowed by the Education Code for what occurred at Corona del Mar High School. The Newport Beach Police Department is currently seeking to interview the alleged private tutor for his involvement in the incident.

The District is currently involved in an intensive audit of all CdM teachers’ grade books so that we can ensure the integrity and accuracy of all posted grades. The District has also taken preventative measures and is implementing a new notification system districtwide to flag grade changes."

While both the students and Lai could face criminal charges, none have yet been filed.

A local newspaper, The Daily Pilot, reports that this is not the first time the affluent school has been involved in a cheating scandal. The publication says that two years ago, 10 students purchased answers for history tests on Amazon, and a 17-year-old student was arrested in 2004 after being accused of changing other students' grades on the school's computer system.

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