Police are searching for a private tutor suspected of helping a group of students at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach who allegedly hacked into teachers’ computers to change their grades, officials said.
“We discovered yesterday that several students were involved in hacking into staff members’ computers,” said Laura Boss, communications director for the Newport Mesa Unified School District. “It appears that it was possible grade changes and access to tests.”
The tutor, Timothy Lance Lai, 28, of Irvine allegedly showed the students how to hack into the computers by using a device known as a keylogger, which the tutor provided, officials said.
Lai is not affiliated with the high school and was being sought as a person of interest in the investigation.
“They plug this device into the back of the computer, on the keyboard cord, so it’s not even identifiable,” Boss said. “They leave it there for a week and a half to two weeks, and then they go and retrieve it. What they’re tracking is keystrokes.”
Parents believe that more than 17 teachers’ computers were hacked by a group of upperclassmen.
“It’s shocking,” said Corona del Mar High parent Leslye Shamberg. “I can’t believe that an adult who’s supposed to be helping these children and mentoring them would tell them to do something like this.”
Student Wade Munger said he knows some of the students under investigation.
“It’s really betraying,” he said, adding that he’s a member of the school’s water polo team. “A lot of those guys are like family to me. And to basically have part of my family go behind
my back and to that to us … because that’s going to affect everyone. I’m applying to schools right now.”
Anyone with information on Timothy Lai’s location was asked to call Detective David Syvock at 949-644-3771 or Detective Sergeant Doug Jones at 949-644-3775.