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Jersey City students arrested for allegedly hacking and grade-changing

Jersey City students charged in alleged hacking scheme.

According to the Office of the Superintendent, on Friday, Feb. 22, Jersey City Police arrested four students at Dickinson High School who are accused of allegedly illegally accessing the District’s Student Information System and tampering with their grades.  The arrests came after an extensive investigation in which district staff isolated suspicious logins and traced them to the arrested students.  Further investigation revealed that the students allegedly used key tracking software to steal teacher user ids and passwords.  The students allegedly used those system credentials to access the system and change grades. The district is still reviewing student records to determine if more students may have been involved and to ensure that all students’ grades are accurate.

School administration at Dickinson first became aware of the alleged grade changing last June when they flagged a few grades that had been changed from failing to passing.  Police were notified of the incident shortly afterward.  Since September of 2018, teachers, guidance counselors and school administration began finding other incidents of changed grades triggering a broader investigation working with police and with the district’s IT Department.  The IT Department tracked usage of the system to figure out the source of the changed grades.

The district is continuing to review student records.  At this time, it appears that between five and 10 students had grades changed, but this is still being investigated.   Teachers have changed their passwords and have been directed to use private computers not accessible to students, when accessing the Student Information System.  The district is also reviewing its data security practices to ensure such incidents do not occur again.

Sudhan Thomas, board of education president, said, “The board was made aware last week that the JCPD had started an investigation based on input from the district last year, in June (2018) in reference to possible grade changes.  What is disturbing is that neither the parents nor the board was made aware about an active police investigation.  The board has requested that the district administration inform the board of all incidents involving law enforcement moving forward.  We have been informed that the four students used a sophisticated hacking process that tracks key strokes, which is alarming.  The board will review to see if individual student personal information has been compromised.”

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