Student Phishes Teachers’ Log-In Info, Changes Students’ Grades Except His Own

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Kyle Perisic Contributor
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A Concord, Calif., high school student was arrested on May 9 after logging into his high school’s grading system network and changing students’ grades except his own.

About 70 miles southwest of Sacramento, a 16-year-old Ygnacio Valley High School sophomore created a phishing email, which isn’t a traditional “hack” rather a trick to get unsuspecting victims to reveal their log-in user names and passwords — one teacher fell for it.

This type of phishing is called “spear phishing,” which is a phishing email targeted at a select group of people with something in common — in this case, teachers’ email addresses — according to the FBI.

The student, whose last name is Rotaro, said it took him less than five minutes to create the phishing email he sent out to the school staff. He also created a fake website to help obtain teachers’ log-in information.

“He created a replica site that appeared trustworthy to the teachers, which is why this one teacher actually logged into it,” said Sgt. Carl Cruz, the Concord Police Financial Crimes Supervisor. “Once the student got it, he was able to access the Mount Diablo Unified School District IT network and therefore get into the grade system.”

Rotaro was charged with 14 felony counts, a local Fox-affiliate reported. He raised and also lowered the grades of 10 to 15 students but didn’t change his own. (RELATED: FCC Issues $120M Fine To The Man Behind Some Of Those Annoying Robocalls)

“He seems to be a very intelligent,” Cruz said. “He was charged with crimes ranging from unauthorized use of entering network to personal info.”

The police “wrote numerous search warrants to get the IP addresses of the possible phishing site email. We got it, and we did good old fashioned police detective work and we narrowed it down to an address,” Cruz added.

The police obtained a search warrant and broke through the door of his home with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit.

“It’s a specially trained canine that is trained to find and sniff out hidden electronics,” Cruz said. The dog was able to sniff out a hidden secure digital (SD) card inside a tissue box.

“I’m speechless. I don’t know what to say,” Rotaro said. “I did kind of want to give awareness to cybersecurity.”

Rotaro’s parents didn’t know their son had this skill set, they said, according to a local ABC-affiliate.

“I’m frustrated he did this, and I don’t want him to be in juvenile hall,” Rotaro’s father, Christian, said.

The student was released from jail the same day as the arrest but was suspended from school.

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