New Jersey duo arrested for changing grades with unauthorized network access

A student and a recent graduate of a Cherry Hill, N.J. high school have been charged with using unauthorized access privileges to change students' grades.

Authorities charged Jonathan To, 18, a graduate of Cherry Hill High School East, and a 17-year-old current student with computer theft. If convicted, To faces up to 10 years in prison, and the minor could be held in a juvenile detention center until he is 21 years old. 

Police launched an investigation after a routine audit in September led to an employee noticing differences between online grades and paper transcripts.

Michael Nuzzo, director of security in the kindergarten-to-12th-grade district, located in a largely affluent suburb of Philadelphia, said in a statement that the two suspects did not "hack" into the system but "gained access through the unauthorized used of passwords."

Susan Bastnagel, a district spokeswoman, told today that she did not not know how the suspects came across the privileged passwords, but she said staff will be reminded to better protect them.

"I'm not sure if someoby left the computer logged on or if it (the password) was written on their desk, but it was just (someone) not (being) careful," she said. "I think they (IT administrators) had everybody change their paswords soon after it (the incident) was discovered."

Guidance staff at the high school where the incident occurred have since reviewed transcripts to ensure their accuracy.

"We want the message to be very clear," Superintendent David Campbell said. "This type of activity will not be tolerated."

Just last month, a high school class president in Florida was arrested and charged with two counts of computer crime with the intent to defraud, a second-degree felony, for allegedly using privileged password access to change the grades of 19 students.

Click here to email reporter Dan Kaplan.

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