Teen Hackers Expose Flaw in Today's Education

Pair in Michigan might have been nurtured as tech whizzes; instead, a criminal investigation
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2018 1:22 PM CST
Jeremy Currier, with his parents Ted and Janet Currier at his home in Rochester Hills, Mich., on Sept. 22, 2018.   (Daniel Mears/Detroit News via AP)

(Newser) Education Week has picked the two latest students to profile for its "Faces of the Future" series, but they're seemingly odd honorees on the surface: Jeremy Currier and Seth Stephens have been expelled from their high school and face possible criminal prosecution. So what gives? It turns out the two are computer whizzes, and they managed to hack into the computer network of their Rochester Community Schools district in Michigan and have free reign for about two years. "It wasn't anything malicious," says Jeremy, 15. "I mostly just wanted to figure out what else I could do." They had access to student and teacher passwords, exams, grades, locker combinations, lunch balances, you name it. Still, there's no evidence the pair did anything malevolent with their access, such as changing grades or selling tests.

They did use the computers for some cryptocurrency mining, though it's unclear whether they made any money. (Some details are still under wraps.) The district finally caught the pair, expelled them in May, and turned the investigation over to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. That inquiry is still in process. Education Week explains its choice to profile the teens, with the case highlighting a two-fold problem: School districts are struggling to protect their IT systems, and they're struggling to prepare students to join the high-tech workforce. The big question here: "How can schools better develop the potential of children with advanced computing skills and a penchant for probing boundaries—before things go bad?" Click for the full story, which recounts how the teens first got into the system thanks to a sticky note with passwords. (Click for other Longform stories.)

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