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NU students expelled for hacking

Two Nevada Union High School seniors have been expelled and won’t be allowed to graduate with their class this June as punishment for their roles in altering grades and stealing instructors’ passwords in January.

Principal Marty Mathiesen said the two students were asked last month not to return to campus after they used computer disks loaded with keystroke-recording software to access sensitive information used by teachers.

Mathiesen declined to name the two students involved in the breach.



The security breach delayed the release of first-semester report cards for a week after teachers and staff had to work extra hours to record the correct grades.

“This had a big impact for every teacher,” Superintendent Maggie Deetz said.




The breach did not affect computers at Bear River High School or the schools at the Park Avenue Alternative Site, Deetz said.

In response to the breach, Nevada Joint Union High School District administrators are looking to add anti-spyware software to computers used by teachers. The district is also pursuing a lease-purchase option of laptops for every teacher within the district and essentially prohibiting students from using those machines.

Spyware is a generic term used to describe programs that can record keystrokes or other sensitive information obtained from a computer’s hard drive.

“We recognize the teachers need new machines, over and above the capabilities that students have,” said Curtis Smith, the school district’s director of technology.

Before the security breach, administrators were already working on establishing an entirely new student record-keeping system for attendance, grades and homework schedules.

The new system is scheduled to be implemented in time for the 2005-06 school year, Smith said. With the new system, students and teachers will have their own passwords, and teachers will be asked not to allow students to use instructors’ computers.

The improvements are part of a long-term plan to correct deficiencies for the high school district’s more than 1,300 computers. Last spring, a state crisis management team urged the district to add anti-virus protection to all computers, as well as establish and maintain a fund to repair and upgrade software for its computer network.

In January, two Nevada Union students reportedly stole teacher passwords and hacked grade reports. School officials said the students used “spyware” that recorded teachers’ keystrokes, which provided the passwords.

Curtis Smith, Nevada Joint Union High School’s director of technology, said the district’s 1,200 computers will soon be loaded with anti-spyware software. The district is looking to lease laptops for classroom teachers, each with their own separate passwords and user names.

Students will generally be prohibited from accessing teachers’ laptops.

– David Mirhadi


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