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Student 'Hackers' Caught Invading School Computers

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As more students become skilled with microcomputers that can link up with school computers, the challenge of gaining access to school records and tampering with them increasingly tempts the expert--and so does the desire to possess better equipment, recent events suggest.

This month, school officials in Little Rock and San Diego caught up with students who had tampered with school records, and a judge in Grants Pass, Ore., sentenced four of seven students caught in connection with a theft of $100,000 worth of computer equipment.

At Mills High School in Little Rock, an unidentified 10th-grade student was "recommended for suspension" for gaining access to the school computer and changing his grades.

The 15-year-old student had "obtained the proper codes and passwords" and used his home microcomputer during the Christmas holiday to hook up with the school computer by telephone, according to3Bobby G. Lester, assistant superintendent for pupil-personnel services of the Mills High School District.

The student signed a waiver admitting his guilt to school officials; he was scheduled to meet with the school board last week to "ask for leniency," Mr. Lester said.

Meanwhile, electronic "hackers" broke into the computer of a mathematics, science, and computer magnet school in San Diego and wiped out files, deleted grades, and tampered with homework.

A student from San Diego's Gompers Secondary School and another student from a different school earlier this month obtained access to the magnet school's computer, found a list of passwords and circulated it among their friends, according to Gregory K. Volger, head of school's computer-science department.

As of last week, three students were suspended, and police continued to investigate the tampering.

Mr. Volger said that Gompers Secondary School will now buy compu6ter hardware to ensure that when an outside call comes into the modem, the computer will take the number, record it, and compare it with a list of numbers of authorized users.

"When you have modems or dial-up lines and anybody can call in and gain access, you are very vulnerable to malicious actions," he said.

In Grants Pass, Ore., one of seven high-school students charged with stealing more than $100,000 worth of computer equipment was ordered by a county juvenile-court judge to write a 1,500-word essay on what he had in common with his co-offenders as part of his punishment.

He was also required to pay a share of the more than $5,000 owed in restitution, spend eight days in a juvenile facility, and perform 250 hours of community service.

Five of the seven student suspects were members of Grant Pass High School's "gifted and talented" program.

As of last week, four of the students had been sentenced.--sr

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