COMMACK, N.Y. — A handful of high school students in New York are facing criminal charges after accessing school computers and changing grades, according to police.
17-year-old Daniel Soares stood tall as he walked out of court released on his own recognizance.
He’s considered the ring leader in a criminal school computer hacking case at Commack High School.
“We are waiting for a full investigation to be done. He maintains his innocence,” said George Duncan, Soares’ attorney.
Also charged in the incident are Alex Mosquera and Erick Vaysman — all juniors in high school, charged as adults.
Police say Soares broke into his high school during after hours and equipped a computer with hardware that allowed him to get passwords and log in credentials leading to grades, schedules and other student information.
They say once Soares retrieved the hardware, he could change grades from home.
“At this point we believe Daniel changed at least four of his own grades. His own grade was changed, I believe, from a 94 to a perfect score of 100,” said Detective Sergeant John Best.
It was district leaders who noticed changes being made without authorization.
Detective sergeant best wouldn’t elaborate but says detectives were called in and found evidence pointing to Soares — which led to a search warrant at his home and ultimately three arrests.
Soares’ charges include burglary, computer tampering, identity theft, computer trespassing and eavesdropping.
Vaysman is charged with computer tampering.
“He felt he should have had a higher grade in a particular class. And requested Daniel make the change,” said Best.
Mosquera’s charges include computer trespass. Police believe the students all succeeded in obtaining what they desired, until they were caught, leaving students and parents at Commack High School in awe.
“I didn’t even know that there were students in our school capable of this,” Andrew, a junior at Commack High School, said. “But I’d be glad if they put that to good use, instead of the use they’ve been putting it to, which is hacking and creating problems for so many students.”
“These kids, that’s all they do, they’re on the computer. They know how to access things. I’m surprised, really. I’m shocked,” said Cindy Beagan, a parent of Commack student.
The school said all the altered schedules and grades were fixed, and that a full electronic security review is underway.
School district leaders aren’t commenting on the case or the students other than to say they’re doing everything they can to assure this doesn’t happen again. The police investigation is still continuing in the case.
Soares faces up to 11 years in prison if convicted. The others face a maximum of 4 years.
The students are due back in court Jan. 29.