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Students busted for hacking computers, changing grades

'Very bright kids' too bright for their own good

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Three high school juniors have been arrested after they devised a sophisticated hacking scheme to up their grades and make money selling quiz answers to their classmates.

The students are accused of breaking into the janitor’s office of California's Palos Verdes High School and making a copy of the master key, giving them access to all the classrooms. They then attached keylogging hardware to the computers of four teachers, and harvested the passwords needed to access the central files of the school network.

They then used that access to change their grades slightly, nudging them up by increments so that all three got As. At the time they were caught, keyloggers were found on three other teachers’ systems, indicating the group was expanding its efforts.

"They were pretty smart," Palos Verdes Estates police Sgt. Steve Barber told the Daily Breeze. "They knew exactly what to do with the computers. The scores wouldn't go up a whole lot, but enough to change their grade. They didn't want to make it real apparent something was going on."

The three didn’t just confine themselves to computer hacking. They're also accused of using the master key to pilfer around 20 tests before they were given – they then worked out the answers and sold them to other students. This scam only came to light when another student heard of the offer and snitched to the school principal.

"They were very bright kids," said Principal Nick Stephany. "They were in AP and honors classes. Am I shocked? Yeah. Definitely by the extent of it. None of these kids had any real trouble before."

Two students have been expelled over the incident, and others are to be disciplined for receiving stolen goods. The school has also upgraded its security and has advised teachers to change their passwords. ®

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