Two students investigated for identity theft at high school

May 12, 2005

By Karen Jordan

May 12, 2005 - Criminal charges might be filed against two students for stealing personal information at a west suburban high school. The students at Hinsdale Central are accused of hacking into the school's computer system and obtaining Social Security numbers for students and staff.

Hinsdale school officials say the accused students have had the Social Security numbers of their fellow students and teachers for months, but there is no indication that they have done anything with that information. Still, the school may take disciplinary action against the students, and criminal charges could be filed.

Thursday night at Hinsdale Central, it was well wishes for the gymnastics team. But earlier in the day, tongues were wagging about the two students accused of hacking into the school's computer and accessing the Social Security numbers of other students and teachers.

"When we grow up and get our jobs, that's our life right there. They can access anything about us. It just screws us up for the rest of our lives," said Julianne Junus, student.

The principal sent a letter home Wednesday explaining the security breach, which may have happened months ago, and appears to have been just for sport. The letter states, "Our investigation is on-going, but the students seemed to be more focused on entering files to demonstrate that they could gather the data than on actually using the Social Security numbers."

As far as who the accused students are, the school will only say they are upperclassmen, but other students say they are seniors.

"They did it on their home computer through their server, they said. They got a court order and went and checked it and they found it," said Kyle Niemer, student.

School officials say there is no indication that the Social Security numbers were used in any way, but they are looking into disciplinary action, and Hinsdale police say criminal charges are possible.

As a precaution, the school gave out the numbers to both the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

"This is a growing problem in the United States and to actually experience that it is going on at the high school level, really makes you concerned," said Curt Stennis, parent.

The technology department is working on restructuring the system to prevent future security breaches.

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