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

By Cal Jeffrey · 15 replies
May 14, 2018
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  1. 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.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Cycloid Torus

    Cycloid Torus Stone age computing - click on the rock below.. Posts: 4,067   +1,190

    Having a felony conviction might become a bit of a hurdle to aspirations.
  3. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,390   +5,016

    It's sad and borderline pathetic at how we would rather dish out multiple felony convictions, than give guidance to an intelligent kid gone astray. They're going to ruin this kids life before he is of age to realize what he has done. **** doesn't get real until after one exits the sheltered life of high school.
  4. Hexic

    Hexic TS Evangelist Posts: 505   +334

    Not so much. They're dishing out multiple felony convictions due to...? The multiple felonies he is guilty of. Just because he's 16 doesn't protect him from the real-life consequences for doing something so incredibly stupid.

    If one believes that intentionally phishing, leading to unauthorized breaches, and the modification of grades doesn't merit the punishment outlined by the law, then perhaps a throw pillow, weighted blanket, and a stern glare may suffice?

    There are alternate ways to impress upon staff the lack of training they may have against phishing attempts. Duplicity and data modification on sensitive systems is the moronic way to go.

    Unless some agency picks this kid up later on, which I don't believe may happen due to how simplistic and common this scheme is, this kid is screwed because he dug his own grave.
    TheBigT42 likes this.
  5. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,124   +1,617

    Those felony convictions will only last two years. In California, once you turn 18, your juvenile criminal record is erased.

    I think two years with felonies on his record is a perfectly fine lesson on how not to be stupid and to believe that the world revolves around you.
    mbrowne5061 and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  6. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Booster Posts: 68   +65

  7. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,390   +3,779

    You know, it still all starts at home. When parents don't take an active part in a child's life it's easy for them to go astray. Granted, with the advances across the board and the demands on the family, it isn't easy to keep up but that also begs the question, if you weren't going to take part in parenting, why did you become a parent in the first place?

    This is not to excuse what the boy did. He should be punished, but a career ending felony conviction? There are better ways for the court to deal with this and it simply shows an overzealous prosecutor and lazy judge that wouldn't try. It's fine to take a "hands off" approach as a parent, but you better be prepared for a lot of heartbreak, knowing that you might have prevented it if you had only taken more time .....
  8. TechGamer

    TechGamer TS Evangelist Posts: 549   +133

    "I kind of want to give awareness to cybersecurity."
    Why does everyone try to play this card, if you really want to give awareness to cybersecurity you'd take a cleaner approach, some might say this captures more attention maybe so but that doesn't mean it justifies his actions and trying to play this act as an act for awareness sounds like a big fat lie.
  9. MaikuTech

    MaikuTech TS Evangelist Posts: 1,068   +187

    You really don't understand much about computer hacking crimes do you ?


    So he's a 16 year old ******* changing grades and his, he didn't think about the consequences nor care for anyone else sake.
    He hacked and phished a schools computer systems, thats a no go, I knew someone in my college who did that years ago.
    He got expelled and was arrested on spot, 2002 internet crimes weren't that bad like they are now.
  10. Kodka

    Kodka TS Rookie

    They should thank him...
  11. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,886   +1,530

    The boundary layer between adolescent and adult is the ability to contemplate the consequences of a proposed action and to take the choice with the best result - - or even abandoning the proposal altogether. Age and completing high school gives no assurety of becoming "adult".

    Here in SoCal, we frequently see news of teenagers car racing on the streets and getting wrapped around trees or light poles -- sad lesson for their friends.

    Sadly, David Rotaro is just bright enough to be dangerous to himself and others and legal consequences just may (but also may not) stir the gray matter sufficiently to cause him to refocus his abilities in more constructive manner. If his arrogance tosses this lesson aside, then he's on the road to "the dark side".
    TechGamer likes this.
  12. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 406   +124

    "an electronics-sniffing K9 found a hidden flash drive containing evidence of the crime."

    <cough!> bull$@%! <cough>
  13. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 12,886   +1,530

  14. roberthi

    roberthi TS Addict Posts: 406   +124

  15. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,766   +1,160

    Shoplifting is quite easy as well, just jump wherever and as long as you don't draw attention to yourself you can simply put something in your pocket and that's it... that it is easy to do it and that you do it are 2 extremely different things. When you are 16 you can already differentiate between right and wrong, and he is doing what anyone would do after getting caught... say it was for academic purposes...
    Anyone with time can do it, you don't even have to know about computers, that doesn't mean the kid is intelligent, if he had been intelligent a) he would not have gotten caught and/or b) he would have not done it.
  16. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,960   +3,999

    The only way, the flimsy excuse, "I was just trying to point out deficiencies in the school's information systems", could possibly justify the action is; Is if the school district was told beforehand they were going to be hacked, and which grades were going to be changed.

    Otherwise, it's just it's just pure bullsh!t out of the mouth of a liar, a cheater, and a black hat hacker.

    "Ah, poor baby", you say? That's nonsense, you're a fool if you believe that. Your identity might be the one stolen when junior gets really good at hacking. Your business data might be held for ransom by this little creep., eventually.

    What motivates people to crime in the first place, is the relentless quest to commit the perfect crime.

    If the school district didn't catch up with this kid, he'd be behind a slew of proxies, bragging about it on the dark web.

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