Student Hacks School Computers, Changes Grades
Can hacking really be done at any level? The answer is yes. Hackers can target individuals, companies, governments, and in this case, schools. Sometimes they do it because they want to send a message or to make a political statement, sometimes it is done for revenge, and in cases like this one, it is done strictly for someone’s personal gain.
Tyler Coyner’s graduated as the salutatorian from his high school in Nevada two years ago. He gave a speech to his fellow classmates about how important it is for people to learn from their mistakes. Now an adult, Coyner will have to get back to his old high school and make another speech about the same subject; but this time, Coyner will have to use himself as the subject.
Coyner was convicted in Nye County, Nevada, for hacking into his high school computers to change his grades as well as the grades of others. He pleaded guilty to these allegations, and was subsequently ordered by District Judge Kimberly Wanker to give a speech about his actions and his punishment at Pahrump Valley High School as part of his court order probation.
Coyner was already an honors student at the time that he committed the hacking, but with the grades he changed when he hacked the computers, his overall GPA went up to a 4.54, the second highest at the school in the 2010 graduating class.
“He is a bright kid,” his attorney Frank Cremen said. “I am not sure why he did it.”
The salutatorian speech Coyner gave, which can be seen on YouTube, was thoughtful and often humorous discussion of his plans for the future, and also included advice to his peers.
“As humans we make mistakes for a reason, to learn from them,” he said. “Whatever happens, it’s going to be alright, so don’t panic”
He was accepted at the University of Nevada-Reno on a full scholarship and attended almost two semesters before he was arrested on campus and returned to Pahrump. After his arrest, Coyner’s scholarship was revoked, all his grades were nullified and he was ordered to repay his living costs while attending, Cremen said.
Coyner could have faced almost three years in prison on the felony charge of unlawful use of or access to a computer, but he pleaded guilty in exchange for up to five years of supervised probation.
“If he stays out of trouble, he would be recommended for a discharge. The probation is based on his conduct,” Cremen said. “If he does everything well, the felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor.”
Coyner’s speech at his alma mater will detail how breaking the law and making bad decisions affected his future.
He now has limited access to computers and has to get a mental health evaluation. He also has to pay more than $3,000 in restitution to the school district, perform 200 hours of community service and pay $300 to Wal-Mart for a stolen television.
Coyner now attends Great Basin College and appears to be doing better.
“He is an A student and studying math and finance,” Cremen said. “He is concentrating on school work and transferring to a four-year college.”
“He understands what the court is asking of him and he is happy to comply” Cremen said.