Pupils 'hack teachers' computers and change grades'

Boy writing in an exam The school is in a wealthy area where pressure to get good grades is intense

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Eleven students have been expelled from a school in southern California for allegedly hacking teachers' computers and changing their grades.

It is believed that keyloggers were installed on computers which helped pupils to gain remote access.

Newport Beach police are keen to interview a private tutor 28-year-old Timothy Lai.

Investigators allege that he "assisted the students in compromising school computers and manipulating grades".

The school at the centre of the hacking scandal is Corona Del Mar High School, in Newport Beach.

What is a keylogger?

Keyloggers can be either hardware devices or a software program that records the real time activity of a computer user

Keyloggers capture keyboard strokes and often collect screen grabs from the computer

Often part of malware packages, some keylogger software is freely available on the internet

Similar devices are 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 Lai 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.

The school said that it was looking into the scope of the cheating scandal. It is believed school officials are re-examining 750,000 grades.

'Disappointed'

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.

Tech-savvy kids

"The ever-increasing use of technology in education keeps raising new problems, from security and privacy viewpoints," said 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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