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Modern-day “Ferris Bueller” hacks school, changes grades, applies to Ivy League colleges

What’s a lad to do if his school grades just aren’t up to snuff, and it looks like his dreams of ever getting to a prestigious Ivy League college are in tatters?

Well, my advice would be to *not* follow the example of one New Jersey teen who hacked into his High School’s computer system to inflate his grades in the hope of reaching an Ivy League college.

A 16-year-old student at the highly-regarded Tenafly High School in Bergen County is being investigated after allegedly breaching IT systems in October.

The unnamed teen is said to have not only raised several of his grades in order to raise his overall GPA, but also immediately sent out college applications.

According to the Bergen Record, which first reported the hack, a guidance counselor noticed that the student’s transcript had been altered.

A subsequent investigation discovered that the school district’s Genesis student management system, as well as Naviance, a nationwide system used by colleges to access student grades and transcripts to evaluate admissions, had been breached.

District parents have been sent an email reassuring them that the hack was limited to one specific individual’s records.

“The School Counseling Department reviewed all transcripts to confirm that the identified hack was limited to the subject of the investigation,” wrote Tenafly High School principal James Morrison. “It was determined that the integrity of all other THS students’ transcripts and records was not compromised.”

The student alleged to be behind the hack has been suspended from school, and has had his college applications revoked. Charges have now being filed in a juvenile court.

Time and time again we hear about hacks against poorly-protected school systems, often seemingly with the intent of improving grades. I think that tells us two things – not only that there can be immense pressure on young people to succeed academically, but also that many high schools suffer from a lack of investment when it comes to decent computer security.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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