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ELMA, N.Y. (WKBW) - One cyber expert is sending out a warning to school districts about vulnerabilities in their computer systems.
This happens as the Erie County Sheriff's Office is investigating an 18-year-old boy who is accused of hacking into his school database.
According to arrest paperwork, the teen admitted to breaking into a lockbox, duplicating the school's master key and hacking into Iroquois Central School District computer system.
He is charged with computer trespassing, unauthorized use of a computer, and computer tampering: altering/destroying material and data. His arrest record says the student changed his grades and attendance records in the database. He also allegedly accessed the Ormsby School system.
According to records, the student was caught cheating on an exam, which lead to his confession of hacking into the school district's system.
7 Eyewitness News is not naming the student because he may be eligible for youthful offender status.
"School districts and all of us are easy targets," remarked Arun Vishwanath, a cyber security expert.
Vishwanath said hackers often target school districts all across the country.
"Most of the people who work in these organizations tend to trust people. So there's not a lot of protections built into it," he added.
However, hackers are usually not students looking to improve their records. Instead, it's often criminals looking for social security numbers and personal information to steal identities of students, parents and district employees.
In one of the latest schemes, scammers encrypt a system and demand that districts or businesses pay money. Otherwise, every grade, list and piece of information could be wiped out. Often, entities pay up.
"The internet was designed to be something that is very decentralized and something easy for us to use using multiple identities," Vishwanath said. "It takes up to one year to know that an attack has happened."
Vishwanath said the amount society has come to rely on computers and the internet has made districts, businesses and even governments extremely vulnerable.
He recommends having a hard drive not connected to the network, multiple layers of security and more than just a password to access high security information.
"What we can do is make it harder for the bad guys," Vishwanath said.
As for the Iroquois High School case, the district was not able to comment due to the ongoing investigation.