A 19-year-old Cartersville, Georgia, college student has been charged with hacking into his school's computer system to change grades and steal other user's passwords.
Christopher Fowler, a student at Georgia Highlands College, used the login credentials of one of the school's teachers to access the school's computer network, authorities say. He also allegedly hacked the school's VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) telephone system. "He got one password from a math professor with the keystroke logger. That gave him access to a lot of administrative machines," said college spokeswoman Dana Davis. "He actually ended up recording conversations, which needless to say freaked out a few people."
Fowler, a computer enthusiast, hung around the school's IT department and is known to staffers there, Davis said. It's not clear that he did anything malicious with the information he collected from his hacking, she added. "It's such a tragedy, this kid had his whole life ahead of him, and this is what he chose."
He was charged Friday with computer trespass and unlawful eavesdropping under state laws, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
College IT staff were tipped off to the breach last week when they noticed anomalies in the system's e-mail traffic. Georgia Highland has more than 2,000 computers on its network.
The college is now tightening up network security and plans to encrypt traffic on its VoIP system to make eavesdropping more difficult, Davis said. But that's a difficult task, she added. "When the breach occurs from an internal source, the problem becomes thornier," she said.
Meanwhile, two other teenagers are facing more serious charges for changing grades at their Orange County, California, high school. Omar Khan and Tanvir Singh are due to be arraigned Tuesday on hacking and burglary charges for allegedly breaking into their high school and accessing the computer system. Khan is facing nearly 40 years in prison on the charges.