Teens Hacked Their Teacher's Computer to Change Grades for Money

"It wasn't necessarily the most legal thing, but something to do that was sort of fun."

by Anonymous; as told to Allie Conti; illustrated by Lia Kantrowitz
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May 28 2019, 10:00am

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When I couldn't log on to my computer during class my freshman year of high school, my teacher came over and gave me the administrator login and password. I thought, Maybe we could use that somewhere else. I started looking and found out that it worked across every computer on the network. I wanted to see if I could get into a user account.

My sophomore year was around the same time that I became friends with somebody else who knew a lot more about coding than I. He figured out how to move the school security cameras around by using a program called NetVu Observer, which we found after discovering the IP addresses of the cameras and clicking around a blue menu screen. It wasn't necessarily the most legal thing, but something to do that was sort of fun.



We were still trying to figure out how to get a username and password for the network. So my friend and I positioned the cameras toward one classroom where the teacher was known to walk in and out of the room constantly. We used the cameras to see when she left before the end of school, and we caught the door before she left. She hadn't logged off, and we got access.

We put a key-logger on her computer, which would email us every half-hour what she had typed. That's how we got her username and password. And since we had access to her credentials, we had access to the grade book. Now we could change the grades.

'Our teacher didn't really know a lot about technology.'

We started off helping friends who were struggling or having mental breakdowns about whether their GPA was going to be good enough to get into the college they wanted. We would just boost each grade by five points at the most because we didn't want the teacher to know. If someone gets a zero and we change it to a 100, that's pretty obvious.

One time, I was hanging out with a friend at lunch and he looked pretty down. Then he just unloaded about this mental breakdown that he'd had about chorus. I was pretty confused about how anyone could get a bad grade in chorus, but I took a risk with him and put a key-logger on the teacher's computer. For the first time, we changed a zero to an 85. It worked out, though, because our teacher didn't really know a lot about technology, so she didn't question it, and it bumped him up to the B that he needed.

We figured out that we could monetize this if we really wanted to, so we had our friends reach out to certain people who were struggling academically and two points or so off from a certain grade. We would just tell them we needed $20. We made probably $500 or $600 the first year—we didn't want to rip people off, and both of my parents could see my bank account at the time, so I didn't want them to question where a ton of money was coming from.

I changed one grade of my own in junior year. It was the final math test that I took. I didn't really study, and I changed my D to a C.

'IT administrators really underestimate what students can actually do.'

Our friend kept scanning the computers, and he found an IT admin computer. This was from a different school, and that's how we realized all the different schools in our district were on the same network. We found out that this IT admin decided to just use the default administrator account to do all his work, which in itself is a security flaw. He had a program on his computer that could push updates to every single computer across the entire network, so we kind of had access to everything at that point. He also had a program to push out the HVAC system, which is to say that he could control the temperatures everywhere. We were pretty happy with what we found, I'm not gonna lie.

I tried to remotely connect to the computer one night at three in the morning, and I didn't think anyone would be on it. It said, though, that someone was logged in, and it asked me if I wanted to kick them off. I thought it was my friend, but it turned to be the IT admin. He logged me out of that computer, and when I came to school the next day, they were replacing the cameras.

I think a lot of schools initially did not pay attention to security because they didn't think anyone would try to get into that sort of thing. IT administrators really underestimate what students can actually do.

There are always going to be security loopholes and a chance for corruption within any system. I really do think that a lot of people cheat. It will show during their performance in college. I've thought about cheating in college, but I think the consequences far outweigh the advantages.

The above has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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