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Teen faces 38 years in jail for grade-tampering hack

The 18-year-old Calif. student allegedly broke into school computers

June 19, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A California teen faces up to 38 years in jail on charges he broke into his school's computers to alter grades so he could improve his chances of getting into college.

Omar Khan, 18, of Coto de Caza this week was charged with 69 felony counts including 34 for altering a public record, 11 for stealing and secreting a public record and seven for illegal computer access and fraud. Charged along with him was Tanvir Singh, also 18, of Ladera Ranch, who faces up to three years in prison for allegedly conspiring with Khan in the plot to manipulate grades.

Khan was arrested on Tuesday; Singh turned himself in to authorities yesterday.

Both teens are seniors at Tesoro High School, a Rancho Santa Margarita-based institution recently ranked among the Top 1,000 high schools in the U.S. by Newsweek. A statement by Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus' office described Khan as breaking into his school facilities on numerous occasions between January and May to access school computers and change his grades. He was charged with stealing personal log-in credentials from teachers to break into school computers and change current grades from advanced placement (AP) tests as well as grades from past semesters.

Khan allegedly changed Fs and Ds to As on numerous occasions. Though most of the time he allegedly changed his own grades, he also altered the permanent transcripts of at least 12 other students at Tesoro High School, Rackauckus' office said.

On one occasion, Khan allegedly used credentials belonging to a teacher to access his school district's main grade database and install a malware program that would have given him access to the system from multiple locations.

His actions were detected when Khan sought an official transcript of his grades and school officials noted a discrepancy, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for Rackauckus. An investigation found Khan to be in possession of copies of his altered grades as well as master copies of original tests and answers -- some of which he e-mailed to other students.

Singh, meanwhile, faces three felony charges for allegedly exchanging several text messages with Khan on one occasion discussing plans to break into a teacher's classroom and steal a test. The 38 years that Khan faces is the maximum he can get if he is convicted on all 69 felony counts and receives the maximum sentence on each, Emami said.

"These are serious charges -- burglary, ID theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy," Emami said.

Both students are expected to be formally arraigned in court early next month.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.



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