District hit by computer breach

May 31, 2008

By Joe McDonald


A hacker apparently broke into the computers at Pocono Mountain School District and may have tapped into confidential information concerning students and their parents, the district's superintendent said Friday.

Parents were notified in a letter sent home by Superintendent Dwight R. Pfenning.

"We have notified law enforcement about the incident," Pfenning said in the letter. Pfenning did not say if state police or local police had been called or when they were told about the security breach.

Pfenning's letter, dated Friday, said the information that may be in the wrong hands includes the students' birth dates, Social Security numbers, student IDs, home phones, and the parents' names, phone numbers and emergency phone numbers.

Parents got the letters when their children returned at the end of the school day, and at least one parent felt the school was being rather nonchalant.

"It sounds to me like they're trying to downplay it," said Ralph Ortega, who lives in Jackson Township. "It's incredibly vague."

There are more than 11,000 students in the sprawling district, which covers the borough of Mount Pocono and the townships of Barrett, Coolbaugh, Jackson, Paradise, Pocono, Tobyhanna and Tunkhannock.

School district officials were not available for comment, and one School Director, John H. Davis, declined to talk, referring all questions to the school's spokeswoman, Wendy Frable, who also was not available.

Ortega said the district recently began providing parents access to their children's grades online. Pfenning said in the letter that the school district had conducted an internal investigation and advised parents to "closely monitor any accounts" that may contain "any or some of this information."

"If you see any unauthorized activity, promptly contract your service provider and or the office of the director of technology at 570-873-7121, ext. 10151," he said.

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