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3 teens charged with breaking into Commack schools' computer system, police say

Three youths, all age 17, are charged with

Three youths, all age 17, are charged with breaking into the Commack Union Free School District computer system and altering the class schedules and grades of about 300 students at Commack High School, Suffolk County police said. The three are, from left, Alex Mosquera, of East Northport, and Erick Vaysman and Daniel Soares, both of Commack. Credit: SCPD

Three Commack High School seniors were charged Tuesday with breaking into the district's computer system and altering the class schedules of about 300 fellow students, Suffolk County police said.

The arrests of Daniel Soares and Erick Vaysman, both of Commack, and Alex Mosquera, of East Northport, followed a monthslong investigation that began after district officials reported a security breach to police in July. An investigation confirmed the alterations of schedules and also found that grades belonging to Soares and Vaysman had been changed, police said.

The three, all 17, pleaded not guilty in First District Court in Central Islip after surrendering at the Fourth Precinct in Hauppauge Tuesday morning. They were released on their own recognizance and are scheduled to be back in court Jan. 19.

Soares was charged with two counts of third-degree burglary, three counts of third-degree computer tampering, three counts of second-degree identity theft and one count each of computer trespass and eavesdropping -- all felonies. His attorney, George Duncan of Central Islip, said his client "maintains his innocence."

Vaysman was charged with one count each of third-degree computer tampering, a felony, and fourth-degree criminal solicitation, a misdemeanor. His attorney, Daniel Belano of Ronkonkoma, said his client "denies the charges."

Mosquera was charged with one count each of computer trespass, a felony, and fourth-degree criminal solicitation, a misdemeanor. His attorney, Glenn Gruder of East Meadow, said Mosquera was innocent, describing him as a model student and athlete who had never been in trouble.

"Alexander Mosquera is not the hacker," Gruder said. "If he wanted to hack, he couldn't do it. All he's charged with is as an accessory, asking the hacker to obtain other student schedules."

Gruder said his client is cooperating with school officials in their own investigation.

School district officials, citing privacy issues, declined to say whether the students had been suspended.

"According to the district code of conduct, every student that is suspended for more than five days goes to a hearing," district spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch said. "Expulsion is determined at the hearing."

Det. Sgt. John Best said police believe Soares went into an unlocked classroom in May -- after class hours but while the school still was open for extracurricular activities -- and installed a device on a computer that tracks keystrokes. Soares returned two days later to retrieve the device, called a keylogger, which had recorded about two dozen teachers' and administrators' usernames and passwords, he said.

"Every teacher and administrator who was in that classroom and logged in, he was able to get into their district account," said Best, who supervised the investigation. "And that's how he then is able to use those usernames and passwords . . . to get into the network to make changes to the grades and the schedules."

Police said Soares repeated those actions in early June.

On Sept. 2, officers executed a search warrant at Soares' home and found the keylogger, which contained the district staffers' data, Best said. The student and his father were present during the search.

Later that day, Soares' mother, Ana Soares, filed a missing persons report for her son, Best said. She sought help from the community and the disappearance was reported by local media. Daniel Soares made contact with his family several days later, and his mother told Newsday on Sept. 17 that he had returned home.

She did not respond to messages left Tuesday.

The district, in a statement on its website, said the alterations to grades and schedules "only involved a very limited number of high school student records" and were corrected immediately after the initial breach was discovered. The district said it is conducting a review with a network security company.

Police said the investigation was ongoing and asked anyone with information to call Computer Crimes Section detectives at 631-852-6279 or Suffolk Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477. All calls will be kept confidential.

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