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Program halted after LA students breach school iPads' security in a week

iPad-mini-in-Hand.jpg

Oct. 23, 2012: Apple introduced the iPad mini, a new iPad design that is 23 percent thinner. (Apple)

It took just a week for nearly 300 students who got iPads from their Los Angeles high school to figure out how to alter the security settings so they could surf the Web and access social media sites.

The breach at Roosevelt High and two other LA schools has prompted Los Angeles Unified School District officials to halt a $1 billion program aimed at putting the devices in the hands of every student in the nation's second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Times reported. The district also has banned home use of the iPads until further notice as officials look for ways to make sure students use the devices for school work only.

The actions come as school officials nationwide grapple with security measures for iPads and other devices as they introduce them to tech-savvy students.

"I'm guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices," School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman wrote in a confidential memo to senior staff obtained by the Times. "I want to prevent a `runaway train' scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the rollout."

Roosevelt was among the first schools to distribute iPads as part of the district rollout. Its students initially were allowed to take home the Apple tablets, and they learned they could easily delete their personal profile information, giving them greater access to the iPads' capabilities.

Westchester High and the Valley Academy of Arts and Sciences in Granada Hills also reported the problem, though in smaller numbers.

Roosevelt students began to tinker with the security software on the devices after "they took them home and they can't do anything with them," Alfredo Garcia, a senior at the school, told the Times.

Before long, students were on the Internet, sending tweets, socializing on Facebook and streaming music through Pandora, students told the newspaper.

The district said in a statement Wednesday that steps have been taken "to ensure it has 100 percent control over what is accessible" on the devices.

Potential precautions include permanently barring home use of the tablets and strengthening the security software that limits how the devices are used.

Zipperman suggested in the memo to senior staff that the district might want to delay distribution of the iPads.

When the technology breaches came to light Tuesday, Superintendent John Deasy "ordered a moratorium on allowing tablets to leave campus until the problem has been resolved," the district statement said.

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