IT security expert looks for solution in cyberbullying problem for Wilson 6th grader

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — We’ve been telling you about a sixth-grader from Wilson who has been tormented by a cyberbullying since the start of online learning this year.

Despite changing schools, the hacking hasn’t stopped. So CBS 17 went to an IT security expert to try and figure out what might be going on.

CBS 17 asked Craig Petronella, who has written books on computer hacking and cybersecurity to take a look at the situation involving Jaylen White, an 11-year-old who’s been the victim of death threats, as well as hacking where obscene messages were sent to his teachers.

Jaylen’s online classroom connections have also been interfered with to prevent him from taking tests or participating in class.

His mother said even after changing schools the hacking continued.

“It did not solve the problem,” said Sheleen White. “The day we signed in for the first time, about 15 minutes later we received a message ‘I’m still here, Ha Hah Ha.’ “

“I think what’s happening here is the bad actors have tricked the victim into installing something called malware or malicious software without their knowledge,” said Petronella.

Petronella says there’s a good possibility the hacker is using a keystroke logger, but he can’t know for sure till the computer is examined forensically.

A keystroke logger is a piece of malware that lodgers deep in your software and transmits everything you type on your device to someone hacking you.

“That will capture all their passwords and log-ins,” he said. “Their details will be sent to the bad actors.”

Sheleen White said she changed out all the hardware in her home when the hacking started and even had her internet provide change her IP addresses. Petronella says that won’t defeat the malware.

“After the keystroke logger captured their credentials, then a clean computer could have been deployed from a new school and re-infected because the bad actors have the victim’s credentials,” he explained.

Since the hacking began White said its not just the computer. There’s been mysterious calls to police.

“I was getting recurring 911 calls on my home phone,” she said. “They’d hang up and the police would come out.”

Petronella said it could all be connected to the hacking.

“She’s using voice over IP service for her phone,” he said. “It goes through the internet. If the victim’s account and passwords were compromised, or there is malware on the system, they can remotely control the system and execute a program and make any calls they want.”

Petronella says evidence of the malware should be on the computers that both Wilson Prep and Elm City middle school provided to Jaylen and can be detected through a detailed forensic analysis.

He said it’s unlikely a school system with its limited IT capacity could conduct such an analysis.

“It’s not in their wheelhouse of expertise,” he said. “Their IT departments are typically swamped these days with issues about remote connectivity due to COVID-19. I don’t think they can go to the depths.”

CBS 17 has put Petronella in touch with White and he’s offered advice to her about what she can do about the problem.

We will keep you updated about what happens next.

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