My local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, ran a story over the weekend about a rash of hacking incidents in area high schools. According to the article, "four incidents at three high schools have been reported in the Elk Grove and Natomas school districts during the past seven months. Seven students have been implicated and four have been arraigned."
The story caught my attention and made me wonder -- if high school kids can hack into school computers and change grades, how hard could it really be to hack into an elections office computer and change records, or votes? Are computer security procedures in county election offices any better than what you'd find at a high school campus? I would like to think so, but given all the known security risks present in our voting systems, it seems to me that there is plenty of opportunity for any number of security breaches.
Excerpts from the Bee story:
As the Sheldon High School teacher logged on to her classroom computer, she didn't know that every keystroke of her password was being secretly recorded.
In an effort to improve their grade-point averages, three students reportedly obtained a keystroke recording device and software to help them hack into the school computer system. They began changing their grades to A's and altering discipline records last May, and they were caught in October, according to officials.
The three Sheldon students, ages 15, 16, and 17, and a 17-year-old Laguna Creek senior, who was expelled in February, are accused of using hacking devices and software to break into the schools' computer system.
The Laguna Creek senior who was suspended is accused of misusing a password and a log-on a teacher provided him for another purpose. No charges have been filed.
The two arraigned 17-year-olds from Natomas High School obtained an administrator's password from a careless staff member, officials said.
According to investigative reports in the Sheldon case, the hacking resulted in the changing of at least 12 grades and the students left a trail of computer messages.
"You changed it to an A-, right? An A+ is too obvious for my parents," wrote one of the students in computer records obtained by police.
At Laguna Creek, the suspended senior is accused of changing the grades of about three dozen students.
At Natomas, the two students are accused of changing their grades to A's, but they inadvertently changed the grades of each of the district's 18,697 students, said Natomas Unified School District student coordinator Rick Rezinas. Then, they deleted all the files in an attempt to cover their tracks, he said.
After the files were deleted the computer crashed, which led investigators to the students. The deleted files were recovered from a backup system.