Local News

Student charged in Panther Creek High hacking

Posted February 3, 2016

— A Panther Creek High School student was arrested Wednesday in connection with a hack of the school's computer system last fall, police said.

Saivamsi Hanumanthu, 17, of Pilot Hill Drive in Morrisville, was charged with felony accessing government computers, felony breaking and entering and misdemeanor accessing government computers. He was released on a unsecured $15,000 bond to the custody of his parents.

Cary police began investigating unauthorized access to Panther Creek High's computers on Oct. 13 and later determined that the system had been hacked into several times and that student grades had been changed.

Wake County school officials discovered that an email sent from one Panther Creek High teacher to another a few days before the initial hacking contained keystroke-tracking malware, according to a search warrant in the case.

The affidavit police submitted to obtain the warrant to search Hanumanthu's home stated that he had been seen sneaking into the school office after school on Oct. 22 and was later confronted by a teacher in a locked classroom with what appeared to be a laptop computer.

Two weeks before that, according to the affidavit, the PowerSchool system, a state database that tracks student attendance and grades at the school, was hacked into on three separate occasions, and the grades and class ranks of six students were changed. A total of 90 grades were changed in the system, and half of them belonged to Hanumanthu, a senior who saw his class rank improve from 67th to seventh, the warrant states.

Police traced the hack to a computer at the Wake County's West Regional Library, on Louis Stephens Road, where Hanumanthu often volunteers, according to the warrant.


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  • Byrd Ferguson Feb 3, 2016
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    If only he had used his power for good instead of evil...

  • Megan Waldron Feb 3, 2016
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    Ginger Lynn, I really shouldn't dignify that hyperlink with a response-but you know that was in INDIA, right? And that in the article there was NO hacking whatsoever-it reported the passing of cheat-sheets, and bribing kids? The TRUE purpose/tone of the article was to report that India has a literacy rate of 74%. You must not have read it. You must be a stupid, lazy American whose parents didn't teach you right. < See what I did there?

  • Ginger Lynn Feb 3, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Even CNN has reported on the cheating problem that plagues India. I feel very sorry for these children that are put under so much pressure that they must resort to this. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/20/asia/india-cheating-parents-school-tests/index.html

  • Megan Waldron Feb 3, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Yeah, Ginger Lynn. Blame the parents & culture. I am so glad that intelligent (non-xenophobic, non-racist) Americans don't categorize all us 'Mericans in the same "character/integrity" boat-because you, m'am, posses none.

  • Mark Cooper Feb 3, 2016
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    May not really have been much of a hack. He could have used a consumer program that tracks keystokes which is avail in many flavors designed for parents to follow kid's action not an actual piece of malware. The email install is the easy way for parents to get it on their kids phone). It emails the keystokes and from there it is pretty simple. Look for an official WCPS site that is most likely secure (HTTPS). Next in the keystroke log is most often an ID and password as that is the normal way folks use secure sites; go to the site address and then login. He then just used the info collected. It does not sound like he found a hole in the firewall or a way to comprise the server.

    If this is the way it happened then he is merely resourceful and sneaky.... A career in politics perhaps? I can see it now Hanumanthu for President 2040!!!

  • Jeffrey Price Feb 3, 2016
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    There is not about a "bright kid" working his way into the system. He simply installed a program on a teachers computer that allowed him to capture their password. Back in my day this was done by grabbing the teachers keys when they weren't looking, getting a copy made and then getting it back to them before they noticed. He did the same tried and true method that has worked for decades. As a computer professional, I find WCPSS security deficient as any two-factor authentication would have prevented this type of attack on their system. NO ONE should use one factor authentication if they can help it. Google, Facebook and most major systems now support two factor authentication. It's a shame this kid is in big trouble, but that's what happens when you try a shortcut.

  • Roy Hinkley Feb 3, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    Based on the article, he could just be a script kiddie running programs someone else wrote. Not a lot of skill required to do that. Now then, if he wrote the malware, then he's at least got some skills.

  • Larry Alston Feb 3, 2016
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    So, if he was so smart, why was he only 67th in class rank, or was the system so easily hacked that almost anyone could do it? Obviously, brains and morals don't always co-exist.

  • Janet Ghumri Feb 3, 2016
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    Yes, he can be further educated and assist authorities with Internet crime while he is in jail.
    First lesson : you're not as smart as you think you are.

  • Erika Phipps Feb 3, 2016
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    Yes, he should be punished. But he should also be further educated and utilized if he's truly all that bright. We need good hackers to prevent hacking, esp. regarding military/intelligence communications, not to mention the US Office of Personnel Management, which allowed millions of us to have our info compromised. Keep the young man on OUR side.