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Hacker changes grades at Cooper City High

Hacker changes grades at Cooper City High
Hacker changes grades at Cooper City High 

nshah (at)
Nov. 04, 2006

A Cooper City High guidance counselor preparing report cards noticed 
something amiss Thursday morning, and now the Broward School District 
and Sheriff's Office are investigating whether a student broke into a 
computer system to change grades.

As many as 20 grades and other records may have been changed by a 
student who either broke into a district computer system, stole a user 
name and password or was given the information needed to access the 
records, said Joe Melita, who heads the district's special investigative 

Only a few employees at the school -- administrators and guidance 
counselors -- are authorized to change the records.

Report cards are scheduled to be issued Monday. It's unclear whether 
they will be affected, school district spokesman Keith Bromery said.

''We're looking at everything, every possibility, whether it was a 
breach or unauthorized access to a code,'' Melita said. ``As smart as 
computer people are, computer technology leaves a mark.''

The Broward Sheriff's Office and school district investigators were 
questioning at least one student Friday about the changed records, 
Melita said, but their investigation has just begun.

In addition to grades, the student may have changed records of 
attendance and community service hours.

It's unlikely the student simply guessed the correct user name and 
password to access the records, Bromery said.

''It's so proprietary, you wouldn't be able to do it in an accidental 
fashion,'' Bromery said.

The student gained access only to records for Cooper City High's 2,400 
students, not for those at any other district schools, Bromery said.

''It looks like an isolated thing right now,'' he said. ``In the 
aftermath, if there's anything we can do to make our systems more 
secure, we will.''

Broward's Student Code of Conduct notes that illegally using district 
technology is a felony. Bromery said if a student is caught, he or she 
could face suspension and expulsion and possible criminal charges.

''This is very serious,'' Bromery said. The district is required by law 
to keep student records confidential.

In 2002, a student at Western High in Davie charged 20 fellow students 
$5 each to change grades on an in-school computer and was suspended for 
10 days. In that case, the student hacked into the district's computer 
system to make the changes.

And earlier this year in Palm Beach County, a high school senior was 
charged with offense against intellectual property, a second-degree 
felony, because he used employee passwords to change his friends' 
grades, delete their suspensions and credit himself for classes he 
didn't take.

In that case, police said, the student had the password of a high-level 
district administrator, giving him access to all 170,000 district 
students' records.

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