There's a wireless router gathering dust in Bob LaRocca's office. It's yours if you can hack into his network. First, some background: LaRocca is director of IT security with the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida, where he oversees a network of 60,000 computers in 175 schools and which he says covers more acres than any other school district east of the Mississippi River. Computer security has traditionally been a low priority in the public school system, but that's not the case in Palm Beach County. That's because a computer breach stung the school system in a very public way two years ago when local papers reported that Jeff Yorston, a student at one of the county's schools, got hold of an administrative password and gave himself an "A" in a French class he never took. He also managed to boost the grades of a few friends.
Yorston was discovered when another student complained that her ex-boyfriend -- with worse grades than she had -- was accepted into the University of Florida while she had been rejected. He has since paid a fine and agreed to state supervision in connection with the charges, according to the Palm Beach Post. After an investigation, county officials discovered that they hadn't been hacked. Instead the breach occurred because of a leaked password. "One of the administrators lent her password out to one of the students who was working on a project," LaRocca said. "That's what happens when you share passwords. We could put $1 million worth of controls in place, but when I give you my password, all bets are off." LaRocca says that the grades-changing incident was "a wake-up call for the district," which has now made security a top priority.
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