California teen faces 14 felony counts in phishing attack against school district

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A Concord California high school student has been arrested for targeting teachers with a phishing scam in order to change his and other students’ grades.

Sixteen-year-old David Rotaro, who attends Ygnacio Valley High School in the Bay Area, was taken into custody last Wednesday after authorities discovered that he was responsible for hacking into the school district’s computer systems and changing the grades of several students including himself.

According to Fox affiliate KTVU, Rotaro allegedly set up a webpage that looked identical to the school’s teacher portal. He then sent out emails to several teachers with links to the page in an attempt to gain their access credentials. At least one staff member fell for the ruse.

“We believe 10 to 15 students’ grades were changed, but we’re still investigating,” said Concord Police Sergeant Carl Cruz.

“I would like to be an IT type person at the top-notch level.”

The school district contacted police after discovering the breach and CPD called in the US Secret Service and a Contra Costa Country cybercrime task force for help in tracking down the IP address of the sender of the emails. They eventually traced the emails back to Rotaro’s residence where an electronics-sniffing K9 found a hidden flash drive containing evidence of the crime.

CBS affiliate KPIX got permission to interview Rotaro from his father and reports that he bragged about the ease with which he accessed the systems, but also apologized for the incident and said that he only wanted to demonstrate cybersecurity issues.

“[Accessing the network was] very easy, it was like beginner level. It was like stealing candy from a baby,” said Rotaro. “I’m very sorry for all the people that I put grades up and grades down. And I’m sorry for the teacher that I hacked. I kind of want to give awareness to cybersecurity.”

The young hacker is suspended from school and awaits a court hearing. He says that he eventually wants to work in information technology.

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