By Andrew Wroblewski
A suspected “ringleader” and two accomplices linked to altering the schedules and grades of students at Commack High School earlier this year were arrested Tuesday, Suffolk police said.
The three 17 year olds, all Commack High School seniors, were identified by police as Daniel Soares and Erick Vaysman, both of Commack, and Alex Mosquera, of East Northport.
Detective Sgt. John Best, commanding officer of the SCPD’s Computer Crimes Section, said Tuesday that Soares was “the ringleader” in the unauthorized breaches to the district’s network, which were first discovered by district officials in July. Around 300 students’ schedules were changed and the grades of two students – Soares and Vaysman – were altered.
District officials said the altered schedules were fixed before they were distributed to students.
After the district learned of the breach, Best said, the Computer Crimes Section launched an investigation that resulted in the Sept. 2 execution of a search warrant on Soares’ home. Police confirmed that the warrant was executed the same day that Soares was reported missing by his family, resulting in a nearly weeklong search for the teen before he returned home Sept. 8.
Police uncovered several items, including hardware called a keylogger, which Best said looks like a flash drive and allowed Soares to “record every stroke of a keyboard while installed on a computer.”
Best said that, at least twice, once in May and again in June, Soares installed the keylogger on Commack school district computers after hours in order to steal employees’ logins and passwords. Soares was then able to access the district’s network from remote locations and make changes, such as those made to schedules and grades.
Soares was charged with two counts of third-degree burglary, three counts of third-degree computer tampering, three counts of second-degree identity theft, one count of computer trespass and one count of eavesdropping. Best said Soares’ two felony burglary charges carry a maximum of seven years in prison.
“A number of students” had knowledge of Soares’ activity, Best said, including Vaysman and Mosquera.
Best said Vaysman asked Soares to change one of his grades, which he did, resulting in Vaysman being charged with one count of third-degree computer tampering and one count of fourth-degree criminal solicitation.
Mosquera requested, for “an unclear reason,” that Soares access another Commack student’s schedule, which Best said he did, and resulted in Masquera’s charges of one count of computer trespass and one count of fourth-degree criminal solicitation.
Best said Vaysman and Mosquera each face a maximum of four years in prison.
Soares, Vaysman and Mosquera were processed at the Fourth Precinct and scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Tuesday. Attorney information for the three teenagers was not immediately available.
“The investigation is continuing,” Best said. “Right now, we’ve only charged the students whose actions we felt gave rise to criminal activity.”
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Computer Crime Section detectives at 631-852-6279 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.
A statement posted Tuesday to Commack’s website said, “We will continue to actively seek those who breach the District Code of Conduct, and those who break the law to ensure the integrity of our data system and to protect those who follow the rules.”
The district is also “doing everything possible to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
“A full electronic security review is underway with a company that specializes in network security.”