Mom Arrested for Hacking School Computers

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As reported on Sophos’ Naked Security newsletter, a Pennsylvania mother, Catherine Venusto, “is facing six felony counts for allegedly hacking into her children’s school computer, changing their grades, and accessing the school’s human resources system to open thousands of personnel files that contained contracts, employee reports and other information.”

According to the District Attorney’s office, the mother worked as a secretary for the Northwestern Lehigh School District from 2008 through April 2011 and has at least two children in the district.  She is accused of changing her daughter’s grade from an F to an M for “medical exception,” of allegedly raising her son’s grade of 98% to 99%, and of using the superintendent’s information to log onto the district email system and to access Northwestern Lehigh’s human resources system.

Lehigh Valley Live.com reports the mother allegedly broke into the grading system 110 times and the computer system thousands of times over the course of a year and a half.  She also allegedly used the login information of 9 other Northwestern Lehigh employees to access the district’s human resources system.

The district’s superintendent stated, “Within three hours of suspecting unauthorized access, email, student information system and the district shared drive were shut down until we were able to fully identify the issue. New security measures were put in place before the systems were accessed again by staff, students or parents,” and we turned the matter over to state police.

District Attorney’s office told ABC News Radio that Venusto is facing three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six charges are third degree felonies.  If she is convicted, she could face a maximum of 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine.

In this day and age when data breaches are occurring more frequently, this incident should serve as a warning for all computer users, organizations, agencies, and businesses to be more proactive and take their computer security systems to the next level.

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Jackie is the Operations and Education Foundation Assistant with the BBB. She assists consumers with business inquiries, and does presentations to senior groups and high school students. She is a regular contributor to the blog.

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