Local Digest

Friday, April 16, 2010; B02


Boy had teacher's computer password

A 9-year-old Fairfax County boy who changed course content and passwords in the Fairfax school system's online teaching system -- including the superintendent's -- accessed it using a teacher's password, officials said Thursday.

The school district detected the problems last month and, with the help of Fairfax police, tracked them to a McLean boy's home computer.

Police obtained a search warrant that said Fairfax's version of the widely used Blackboard Learning System "had been hacked" and that the boy's Blackboard account had "administrator privileges."

Blackboard and school officials clarified Thursday that the boy had not found and exploited a security vulnerability, but rather that he had obtained a teacher's password.

Fairfax schools spokesman Paul Regnier said the boy was able to use that access to enroll other users, including Superintendent Jack D. Dale, into his class and could then change their passwords.

-- Tom Jackman


Police seeking charming car thief

Montgomery County detectives are searching for a woman who they say used a stolen identity and flirtatious approach to steal three high-priced vehicles from dealerships on the same day.

The suspect, identified as Somsook Jasmin McCollum, 37, of the 18500 block of Cabin Road in Triangle, struck Dec. 30, police said.

Posing as a woman with good credit who previously had lived in Oklahoma, McCollum was able to purchase a Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Audi -- altogether valued at almost $200,000, police said.

She put $5,500 down for the Range Rover but got the two others with no money down, police said.

She was flirtatious and well-spoken, police said. Detectives believe that she had gotten the personal information of a 36-year-old woman from Oklahoma and obtained a fake D.C. license using that information.

Police described McCollum as "a light-skinned black female with slightly Asian features," 5-foot-3, 150 pounds and with brown eyes and long black hair. Police said she has a large surgical scar near one leg's knee. To disguise herself, she has cut her hair, put on a wig, or worn her hair in a wrap or a hat.

-- Dan Morse


New toxins found in Spring Valley

The Army Corps of Engineers last month found three jars of a highly toxic liquid chemical at the Spring Valley World War I munitions cleanup site, officials announced this week, and closed a dig there while experts review safety and removal procedures.

Dan Noble, the corps' Spring Valley project manager, said workers unearthed the half-liter jars of arsenic trichloride March 29 at 4825 Glenbrook Road in the Northwest Washington neighborhood. Two of the jars -- one of which was broken -- began to smoke when they were unearthed. The leaking arsenic trichloride was likely reacting with the air to produce hydrochloride gas, he said.

Noble said the excavation was closed down. Two of the jars were packaged at the site and probably will be removed Friday. The third jar, which had not opened, has been taken away, he said. Noble said that there was no danger to the surrounding neighborhood but that such chemicals needed to be handled with great care.

He added that although arsenic trichloride was on the corps' list of possible finds at the former chemical weapons experimentation station at nearby American University, it was the first time it had been found at the Glenbrook Road excavation. Noble said that during the war, scientists tested arsenic trichloride to see whether it would work as a chemical weapon or enhance the potency of other weapons.

The corps has been digging at various locations in Spring Valley and removing munitions and fragments on and off since the 1990s.

-- Michael E. Ruane

Normal traffic rules for Friday's holiday

Although Friday is a holiday for District government workers, it is not a federal holiday, so normal rush-period traffic patterns will be in effect in the city.

District offices and schools will close for Emancipation Day, which marks the day in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln freed more than 3,000 slaves in the District, nine months before he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The day was made an official D.C. holiday by then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams in 2005.

-- Ashley Halsey III

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