Hack Attack? No, Mouse Slipup

FRAMINGHAM (03/09/2000) - Reports that a hacker broke into MIT's computer system and changed students' grades have turned out to be far less sinister.

The problem, university officials said, was the misuse of a mouse.

The grade changing was initially investigated as a hacking incident, and news stories in the student paper and area newspapers reported it as such. Two students' grades in a biology class at the Cambridge, Mass., university were raised, and 20 grades were lowered.

But this morning, biology professor Harvey Lodish told an MIT spokesman that the changes were made by mistake by someone entering grades.

According to the university's press office, a grades spreadsheet is sorted by using a computer mouse to highlight the columns of names and corresponding grades. In this case, the person entering the grades slipped up and only highlighted the column of names to sort, resulting in grades being assigned to the wrong people.

"I think its a good lesson to all of us that sometimes things can be a little more innocent than they seem," said spokesman Ken Campbell.

Although the incident was a bit embarrassing, he added, it had a "happy result."

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