SPRING HILL — Pasco-Hernando State College student Amanda Yost blamed her boyfriend when she noticed that emails went missing on her account with the learning management website the school uses.
He liked to play World of Warcraft on her Asus laptop, and Yost, 20, thought the game had introduced a virus.
But after a multiweek investigation, Hernando County sheriff's detectives discovered that the hacker was a criminal justice technology student at the college named Allen Lockser.
Deputies reported that Lockser, 21, hacked into 20 students' accounts on Canvas, a site where students submit assignments and complete assessments, according to an arrest report. No personal information was compromised, but he submitted quizzes and deleted assignments, discussion posts and emails on five students' accounts.
Like most of the affected students, Yost didn't know Lockser. But Detective William Horvath said Lockser knew three of the students through the Sheriff's Office Explorer post, an organization for young adults interested in law enforcement careers that Lockser was involved in until October.
School officials and deputies were unsure of Lockser's motive.
Deputies arrested Lockser on 11 felony computer fraud charges. He was booked into jail Tuesday and released Wednesday after posting $1,100 bail. The college is taking disciplinary measures to address the situation, said spokeswoman Lucy Miller.
Attempts to contact Lockser were unsuccessful. At his Spring Hill home Thursday, his mother told a Bay News 9 reporter that her son apologizes and feels bad about the incident.
Lockser first accessed the accounts in April by typing random combinations until he cracked the passwords, Horvath said. Detectives linked the hacks to an IP address registered to Lockser's mother. Horvath explained that the address is static, meaning it stays the same with every use. More advanced hackers would use a dynamic IP address, which changes with every log-in.
"It was very easy to trace," Horvath said. "(Advanced hackers) would run so many different filters through that it would be difficult to get back to them."
Lockser had no criminal record, according to court records. He worked as a food and nutrition department employee at Powell Middle School in Spring Hill, Hernando schools spokesman Eric Williams said, adding that the district was aware of the arrest and could not comment further.
Lockser's hack cost the college at least $10,000 to investigate and correct, Miller said.
The school has increased security to ensure it doesn't happen again. Students must change their passwords to a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. If a student has questions about his or her account, information technology officials will make more rigorous checks to verify the student's identity, Miller said.
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As for Yost, she's glad she can continue her education in business administration without interruption.
"I was upset because this is my future. It's my grades; it's my school," she said. "Now I can submit my work correctly."