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NU snatches grade hackers

Local high school officials said Friday they have caught the students who reportedly hacked into Nevada Union High School computers and changed grades.

“We have found the root of the problem and caught individuals who gained unlawful entry into the system,” said Curtis Smith, director of technology for Nevada Joint Union High School District.

The breach in January delayed the release of first-semester report cards by nearly a week as teachers worked to re-enter the correct grades.



Smith said the problem stemmed from students and teachers using the same computers to access sensitive records. Smith declined to elaborate as to how the students gained access to the records, saying the district has yet to finish its investigation.

Smith said he has asked the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office to help in the investigation, as well.




Smith, Nevada Union Principal Marty Mathiesen and Superintendent Maggie Deetz declined to say how many students were involved in the Jan. 26 incident.

Teachers were forced to work extra hours last month in order to fix grades that had been changed after students apparently gained access to sensitive records, including first semester reports.

Short of giving teachers individual laptops and beefing up anti-spyware software, Smith and Deetz said the problem could occur again.

“There’s no system that can totally prevent this from happening,” Deetz said.

Spyware is a generic term for software that can be used to record data such as computer keystrokes or other information without a computer user’s knowledge.

“Our main database is safe and remains safe, but there is the ability for individuals to hack into an individual teacher’s systems and computers in their rooms,” Deetz said.

Smith said there are anti-spyware software systems available to protect teachers, and that he is researching the possibility of adding the technology to all of the district’s more than 1,300 computers.

The high school district also serves as the Internet service provider for a majority of Nevada County’s 10 school districts. Smith said the activities at Nevada Union did not have a bearing on computers in other districts that rely on the high school district for Internet connections.


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