Cyber security expert weighs in on Panther Creek hack attack

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A hacking attack on a local school leaves adminstrators scrambling to tighten online security (WTVD)

As Cary police work to track down the hacker who tampered with the grades of Panther Creek High School students, the state's largest school system is defending the way it stores and protects data.

Wake County Schools says it has security professionals on staff who are dedicated to safeguarding information of students and WCPSS employees.

A local cyber security expert said the district's practice of reviewing student information at least four times a year is good practice, but the breach is a good reminder to all about protecting your data.

Jon Sternstein of Stern Security in Raleigh, said hackers are not only more prevalent but younger as well. He wasn't surprised when he saw a high school's computer network was hacked, impacting student grades and class rankings for most seniors.

"I thought that another student wanted to change their grades," he said.

Sternstein said hackers are taking to the Internet to teach one another about the latest hacking schemes or to brag about their conquests. A quick Google search on "how to change your grades" turned up a bevy of YouTube tutorials on hacking school data systems.

While neither WCPSS nor the Cary Police Dept. are revealing how Panther Creek's system was breached, Sternstein said often times the vulnerability is found in email accounts.

"Organizations have to stop relying on simple passwords," he said. "A lot of times the criminal just logged onto the person's email account first to try to get access to all these other systems."

Panther Creek counselors are now working to send updated transcripts to all the colleges and universities where students had already applied.

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