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Hacker mom changed her children's grades

Pennsylvania mom hacks into school's computer system to change her children's grades

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One Pennsylvania mom hacked into the Northwestern Lehigh School District’s computer system in February 2012 to change her son’s nearly perfect grade of 98 to 99. Catherine Venusto, 45 of New Tripoli had worked for the school district from 2008 until 2011 when she resigned. There are at least two of Venusto’s children in the district.

Venusto has also been accused of changing her daughter’s failing ‘F’ grade to an ‘M’ medical exception grade in June 2010. She admits to logging into the computer system even after she had left her job as administrative office secretary. She said that she had accessed the computer system out of “curiosity and boredom”.

She used Superintendent Mary Anne Wright’s password to gain access into the system 110 times, and used the information of nine other employees to access the system thousands of other times. Only her two children’s grades were changed.

Assistant superintendent Jennifer Holman said that she had first realized something was amiss when numerous teachers questioned Wright about logging into the system and accessing a teacher’s grade book. Wright had explained that she had never logged in, and three hours later, the system was shut down, after which time the district officials tightened security.

The investigation that followed the incident involved court orders to figure out  and obtain internet provider information of the person who was hacking into their system. The court orders found that Venusto had logged in from three different computers to access the records. One was her home computer, the other with the East Penn School District, and lastly one associated with the home television shopping network, QVC.

Venusto told police that she never thought what she was doing was illegal, although she knew it was unethical. On Wednesday, Venusto was charged with three counts each of unlawful use of a computer and computer trespassing. Bail was set at $30,000. She could face up to either 42 years in prison, or a $90,000 fine.