At least 18 students have been implicated in a successful computer hacking scheme at Schoenbar Middle School.
As everyone with a computer knows, software needs updating. Often. Many Ketchikan School District students have school-supplied laptops, and when those computers need upgrades, the teachers have to type in a password.
That’s how the hackers got into the system.
Students were manipulating their machines, so the teachers thought they were installing an upgrade of Java for example, and in the background something else was running that the teacher was actually logging into as well. And it only took one time,” said Casey Robinson, Schoenbar’s principal.
He says he learned about the hacking on Friday, when some other students reported that something was going on.
The district’s technical supervisor, Jurgen Johansen, says he’s surprised this didn’t happen sooner. He says the technique is called social hacking, and it’s something his generation used.
After the students gained access to the system, Johansen says they added administrative accounts, which they used to “spy” on each other. They were able to tap into each other’s laptops, and control them remotely.
Robinson says he doubts any personal information was compromised by the hacking incident.
“I don’t believe any hardware issues were compromised,” he said. “No software issues were compromised. I don’t think there was any personal information compromised. Now that we have all the machines back in our control, nothing new can happen.”
That’s 300 machines, by the way, and district computer technicians will have to go through each one to see who participated in the scheme. Johansen says that after a lot of overtime, the IT department should know in about a week.
Once the investigation is complete, some kind of discipline is likely. To determine appropriate punishment, Robinson says the district will look at the student code of conduct, the computer-use agreement that each student and parent has to sign before getting a laptop, and district policy.
He added that protocols likely will change, too.
“How we do business is definitely going to have to change when it comes to updating programs and resources on the machines,” he said. “Yes, something new is going to have to happen.”