Time Magazine reports that a Pennsylvania woman faces six felony charges for hacking the computer system at her kids schools. Catherine Venusto, 45, hacked into the Northwestern Lehigh School District computer system and altered the grades of her two children, ABC News reports. Venusto had worked at the district as an administrative office secretary from 2008 through April, 2011. A year before she quit, Venusto, of New Tripoli, PA ad been accused of changing her daughter’s failing grade to a medical exception. And in February, 2012, she was accused of changing her son’s 98 to a 99.
Ms. Venusto was arraigned on three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespassing and altering data. All six of those charges are third degree felonies. Pennsylvania State police say Venusto admitted changing the grades, saying she thought her actions were unethical but not illegal.
“I’m concerned on numerous levels,” said Jennifer Holman, Northwestern Lehigh School District’s assistant superintendent. “When we say systems, there were three difference systems violated…There were 10 different users that at some point had their email violated.”
Assistant superintendent Holman told ABCNews.com that she first realized something was wrong when a teacher asked why superintendent Mary Ann Wright was in that teacher’s online grade book. Once Wright explained she was never in the grade book, administrators and state police began looking for whoever used Wright’s username and password without permission.
PA State police discovered Venusto used Wright’s username and password 110 times to access the district’s online grading system, according to the District Attorney’s office. Venusto also allegedly accessed nine other faculty members’ email accounts without permission, and accessed the human resources “H-drive” to view “thousands of files associated with district policy, contract information, employee reports and personnel issues.”
Superintendent Wright released a statement on Wednesday in anticipation of Venusto’s arraignment.
“We deeply regret this incident and that this unauthorized access occurred, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause,” Wright wrote. “We are doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again, and new security procedures are in place to better assure that our systems are protected from such attempts.”
The court set bail at $30,000, but Venusto will not have to pay it unless she does not appear in court for her preliminary hearing. Venusto could face a maximum of 42 years in prison or a $90,000 fine, according to District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Debbie Garlicki, who said the maximum penalty on each count is seven years or a $15,000.
The mommy hacker’s defense is “I thought it was immoral but not illegal”. I will mention in passing the declining parenting standards which is creating a bunch of narcissistic and self-absorbed generation that has no conscious to what right and wrong is.
The Administration and IT department both bear blame for this intrusion. Some easy to implement best practices could have shut the mommy hacker down quicker. They should have required regular password changes. They could have broken the bank and installed an intrusion protection systems. Those of us who work in K-12 understand that security is only important after an incident.