CARY, N.C. (WNCN) – With many students in the process of applying for colleges, the information system at Panther Creek High School was hacked and some grades were changed, according to a memo the school sent parents.
Principal Camille Holmes Hedrick told parents and students that the Cary Police were investigating.
“A few students’ grades were impacted and their parents have been notified,” Hedrick said. “For all other students, all academic data (SATs, ACTs and GPAs, and grades) are accurate and remain unchanged.”
Hedrick said the hack occurred within the last month.
“It actually concerns me a lot because I know I have high grades, and if that happened and something happened to my grades that could affect a lot of things for me,” said one student, Mario Hawthorn.An employee at the school noticed the problem while reviewing student data and reached out to the schools’ information services.
“Class ranking, however, was briefly impacted earlier this month for most seniors. Once class ranking is restored for all students so that it accurately reflect their grades, an unofficial copy of all seniors’ transcripts will be mailed to their home address,” Hedrick said.
Administrators are still in the process of correcting the class ranks.
Crystal Reardon, the director of counseling, said, “We routinely review the student data, and the best way to ensure the data remains accurate is that we are looking at it and comparing it to what data previously looked like.”
Hedrick said the school would contact all colleges that may have received transcripts from Panther Creek students in that time period.
Wake County Schools officials believe the problems only occurred at Panther Creek.
The Cary Police would not release any details of their investigation.
Duke Rogers, a cybersecurity expert and CEO of Triangle Forensics, took a look at the school’s website to test it for vulnerabilities.
“Their firewall is very locked down. It’s very good,” he said. “Classically people think, ‘Oh a hack.’ No. What happened here has got to be that a teacher, somehow their credentials were compromised, username and password.”
Wake County uses an information system called PowerSchool.
“At Wake County, though, it’s wide open in that teachers, parents, students, they can do this from anywhere,” said Rogers. He said the county may consider changes when it comes to what information can be accessed and altered outside of school.
“I guarantee that they know right now who did it,” he said. “If you have the teacher’s credentials, you may think you have all kinds of anonymity, but you really don’t.”
In an email, Wake County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten said, “The school system has strong processes to prevent these breaches, and to catch them quickly when they occur. In this case, our information services department and our student services department were able to quickly identify the source of the breach, and restore the data before any students were negatively impacted.”