U.S. authorities appear to have uncovered a vast, nefarious conspiracy to electronically rig an American election in favour of an illegitimate victor. Neither Deep State supercomputers nor Russian intelligence agencies are alleged to have been involved in this one, however.
Instead, the election in question is the 2020 race for Homecoming Queen at Tate High School in Cantonment, Fl., and the culprits would appear to have been a local elementary school Assistant Vice Principal and her teenage daughter.
Emily Rose Grover, 18, and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, 50, are facing multiple felony charges related to a scheme conducted last October in which both allegedly “hacked” into the school district’s student data system to rig the Homecoming race in favour of Grover.
Last October, Grover won the most-popular-girl-in-school-award, beating out several other girls at Tate for the Queen’s crown. However, the afterglow of victory was likely dampened somewhat by a police investigation several weeks later, in which officials with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) sought to uncover whether Grover and Carroll somehow tampered with the election.
The law enforcement agency says it was notified shortly after Homecoming that the school district’s student information system, called FOCUS, had been improperly accessed and that votes had been changed to throw the race for Grover. A statement from FDLE reads:
“In October 2020, hundreds of votes for Tate High School’s Homecoming Court voting were flagged as fraudulent, with 117 votes originating from the same IP address within a short period of time. Agents uncovered evidence of unauthorised access to FOCUS linked to Carroll’s cell phone as well as computers associated with their residence, with a total of 245 votes cast for the Homecoming Court.”
FOCUS is a widely used student information system app, produced by a local Florida company, Focus School Software LLC. A pamphlet for the company shows how the program helps administrators track and analyse student data. Carroll had “district-level access of the school board’s FOCUS program,” said officials with the FDLE, which allegedly allowed for the manipulation of votes.
The mother and daughter were arrested in March. Despite the fact that Grover was a minor when the alleged election rigging occurred, she is now being charged as an adult. If convicted, she could spend up to 16 years in prison.
It seems probable that Grover may have routinely used her mother’s account to look at other students’ data prior to the election rigging incident, according to statements provided to police. A local news channel reveals a statement from one high school student, who told officials:
“I have known that Emily Grover logs into her mums school account in order to access grades and test scores since freshman year…She looked up my student ID before in order to tell me what I got on my FSA and ACT. … She looks up all of our group of friends grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all of the time.”
In cyber parlance, this is what would be considered an “insider threat” attack — a security incident that originates from within an organisation rather than from outside of it. These incidents typically don’t involve actual “hacking,” but instead see bad actors use illegitimate access to data, data theft, or manipulation of internal systems, for personal gain. Typically the goal is corporate espionage, but apparently, local popularity contests are at risk too.