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Nine year-old blamed for US school system hack

Youngster uses teacher's login to redraw Blackboard

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Police hunting a hacker who had attacked a US school's systems found themselves cornering a "very intelligent" 9 year old instead, it has emerged.

When passwords for teachers at Spring Hill Elementary, Virginia, were changed without authorisation the school board initially thought a hacker had broken into the school district's Blackboard system.

Police were called in to investigate in mid-March and were quickly able to trace the incident back to a PC at the home of a 9 year-old school student.

The youngster's mother was initially chief suspect in the hack but after speaking to her and and her son police came to the surprising conclusion that they were dealing with a 'kindergarden' hacker.

"He's a very intelligent 9-year-old,with no criminal intent," Officer Don Gotthardt, who investigated the case, told The Washington Post.

The precocious and mischievous youngster recorded login details to the Blackboard system from a teacher's desk before using the login credentials to modify class enrolment lists, change the password login details of teachers and modify homework assignments.

"This was a case where an individual ... got hold of a teacher's password, and the passwords had administrative rights," a Fairfax school board spokesman said. No action was taken against the unnamed student, at least by the authorities.

The Blackboard system provides an online forum to detail homework assignments and make class announcements. Blackboard downplayed the significance of the unauthorised access onto supervisor account by saying an intruder would not have been able to change grades or access more sensitive school resources.

The firm disputes local reports that the installation of its technology at the school was hacked. "It was actually not a hack, unless you consider the fact that the 9-year-old took the teacher's username and password from the desk a hack," said Michael Stanton, Blackboard's senior vice president of corporate affairs told IDG. ®

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