Two teens arrested in school district computer hacking

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Justin Fine Wright.
Justin Fine Wright.

Detectives with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office have arrested two South Brunswick High students on charges of unlawfully accessing the school district’s computer system.

Justin Fine Wright, 16, of Southport and 16-year-old Onzel Dupree Ballard of Bolivia have been charged with one count of misdemeanor accessing computers and computer trespassing, according to sheriff’s office spokeswoman Emily Flax. Wright and Ballard were processed into the Brunswick County Detention Facility and later released to the custody of their parents.

Onzell Dupree Ballard.
Onzell Dupree Ballard.

The arrests stem from an investigation that began late last month into ongoing denial-of-service (DDoS) issues that had caused major disruptions to the system’s network since January. The hacking incidents allegedly occurred between Sept. 15, 2014 and March 25, 2015.

“Initially, the issues were sporadic but over the past weeks have escalated, resulting in significant interruptions to the system’s internet connectivity,” Brunswick County Schools Spokeswoman Jessica Swencki said in March. “These interruptions cause a loss of instructional time, decreased productivity and have created an inability to execute required online state assessments.”

District officials contacted the sheriff’s office on March 24 to conduct an investigation into the matter.

“We appreciate the quick work of investigators to identify suspects in the DDoS attacks,” Superintendent Les Tubb said. “The system’s connectivity has been restored and we are back to business as usual.”