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Plainfield schools computer system hacked

plainfieldmap_optBY BOB HOLT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

An Internet website widely known for pranks looks to be the subject of an ongoing criminal probe in Plainfield.

Publicly accessible postings made last week to the website 4chan.org, which includes hundreds of thousands of users, seem to indicate that the vandalism came in the form of a simple online prank.

The chaos began when a 4chan user issued a post a little before 7:45 p.m. last Tuesday, offering a link to the database and an administrative username and password, then instructing other users to "have fun :)"

Mycentraljersey.com reports that according to the postings, 4chan users achieved custodial access to the database and subsequently changed school lunch prices to $9,000, sent out an emergency broadcast message via e-mail and even deleted the transcripts of all students in ninth through 12th grade, among other actions.

Less than an hour after the initial post went up, a 4chan user wrote that he had contacted local schools officials to warn them about what had happened. Several minutes later, users started noting that the password had been changed and access was no longer available.

According to computerworld.com, the Web-based Genesis software is used by about 160 New Jersey schools to manage their student records and communicate with students and parents.

Genesis also issued a statement later Monday addressing inquiries into the matter, noting that staff became aware of it Wednesday and immediately acted "to determine the gravity and scope" of the situation.

Genesis fixed the problem after discovering the stolen password, the company said. On Friday, Genesis posted a brief note offering customers some basic password protection.

Threatpost.com says 4chan is an Internet message and image board on which users often post anonymous content. It was initially popular among fans of anime and as the origin of a number of popular Internet cults.

The site has made national headlines several times for initiating online pranks causing varying degrees of damage. Probably the most high profile of the incidents was the September 2008 hacking of the personal e-mail account of then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

An FBI investigation determined that David Kernell, a 20-year-old University of Tennessee economics student, had obtained access to Palin's account by looking up biographical details about her and then posted several pages of her e-mails to 4chan (Kernell in November 2010 was sentenced to a year in prison, but he is appealing his conviction).

The district's interim superintendent, Anna Belin-Pyles said that any damage to the system's data was, at worst, only temporary. "There has been no permanent damage to the electronic files and steps are being taken to remedy the situation and further secure the system," she wrote.

An August 2010 Washington Post article indicated that the website has been responsible for many of "the highest-profile collective actions in the history of the Internet."

 

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