Remember when Ferris stole the school passwords and changed his grades (as well as his hot girlfriend Sloane’s) at the beginning of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? I was a kid when I saw that movie and always thought that not only was it cool he could change grades (through a COMPUTER) but that even if he got caught he should’ve been given extra credit for being creative.
Of course that was the 80’s when hacking was cute and funny (let’s ignore War Games for a minute) as opposed to today when hacking will get you sent to jail or on the FBI’s most wanted list. And while nothing that extreme happened with Catherine Venusto it’s safe to say that she’s learned her lesson about hacking.
Venusto, a 45 year old mom and former secretary in Northwestern Lehigh School District in Pennsylvania decided that she was going to doing her own Ferris Bueller impression earlier this year. She stole the grading passwords from the Superintendent of her school district and used them to change a failing grade for her daughter into a medical exception and bump up her son’s grade from a 98 to a 99.
Needless to say she was finally caught after an investigation was started this past February and even though Venusto had left the school district for another job with QVC in 2011 she was still arrested and released on $30,000 bond for various unlawful computer use and computer trespass charges.
While the crime this woman committed was clearly illegal, her lack of skill in executing the crime is almost worse. Who in their right mind would risk jail-time to change their son’s grade from a 98 to a 99? That’s like breaking into a bank to re-count the money and then leaving. However, there is a larger issue here about campus and high-school security. There is all sorts of personal information that is kept filed about students their families, medical histories and the like and most of it honestly is not kept in a particularly secure fashion.
I can attest that as a college professor it is disturbingly easy to get access to a student’s personal records that are really not the business of anyone other than their immediate instructors, and I know there is even less security at the highschool level. While Catherine Venusto is just a crack-pot helicopter parent who wanted to bolster her kid’s chances, she could’ve just as easily been some crazed cheerleading Mom out to destroy her daughter’s biggest rival. Public school systems might want to do a better job of keeping the Mommy Beuller’s of the world off out of the grading files no matter how innocuous the crime may seem at first.