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Police: Mom hacks school's computer system to change kids grades

A Pennsylvania mother went to great lengths to see her children succeed when she logged into a school district's computer system to change their grades, state police and school officials say.

Catherine Venusto, 45, admitted to using password information obtained while employed as a secretary for the Northwestern Lehigh School District to log onto the computer system on multiple occasions, according to authorities. 

Using district superintendent Dr. Mary Anne Wright's sign-on and password, she changed a failing grade for her daughter to a medical exception in 2010 and bumped up a grade of 98 to a 99 for her son in February, authorities said. 

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She also used Wright's information gain access to emails and personnel files, assistant superintendent Jennifer Holman told NBC News.

Authorities said Venusto also used employee passwords to access the district's human resource system.

Venusto told police she logged into the system out of "curiosity" and "boredom," according to court records, The Morning Call reported.  

The investigation began in February when Holman reported that a former employee had used the Wright's password and username to gain access into the district's computer system. 

"We had a pretty good idea (identity of employee) because of the grades that were changed," Holman told NBC News.

A teacher at district high school told the principal she had seen Wright's name as logging into an electronic gradebook system, Holman said.

After district officials contacted Wright to inquire about her viewing student grades, she ordered a shutdown of the district's computer system.

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"At the time, I didn't quite have a grasp of the scope of what happened, but I was immediately concerned for protected information," Wright said. "We shut down the system within three hours of learning there was a potential problem."

As a secretary, Venusto's duties included creating sign-in and passwords for Wright and several other employees, the Morning Call reported. 

Holman said she left her secretary job of six years in 2011 in good standing for a position with another school district before going to work for QVC, an online shopping network, according to a news release by the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office

The release said an investigation found Venusto logged into the district's computer system more than 100 times using Wright's password. 

Venusto used three different Internet-provider addresses, one from her home, the East Penn School District and another associated with QVC, to log onto the system, the news release said. 

"We deeply regret this incident and that this unauthorized access occurred, and we sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause," Wright said in a statement posted on the district's website.

Holman said no evidence was found suggesting employee personal information was compromised or used for illegal purposes. She told NBC News that the grades for Venusto's children were the only ones changed. 

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She has been charged with three counts of unlawful use of a computer and three counts of computer trespass, according to court records. 

She was released on $30,000 bail Wednesday. 

Police said she admitted her actions were unethical but not illegal. 

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