Three Purdue University engineering students – Roy Chaoran Sun, Sujay Sharma, and Mitsutoshi Shirasaki – are facing felony charges stemming from a hacking scheme meant to boost their grade point average.
Prosecutors allege the three conspired to alter their own grades by hacking into professor accounts. Court documents state Purdue’s Information Technology Security Services for Purdue University (ITaP) contacted campus police after learning that a student was logging into a professor’s university account and changing grades.
It started when a professor, trying to log into his account, alerted the department on two different occasions – once on November 30, 2012 and again on December 18, 2012 – asking for password resets, claiming it had been changed without his knowledge.
Security analysts examined the logs and discovered that someone had accessed the professor’s account using an IP address that wasn’t affiliated with the university. ITaP managed to trace the second incident to 24-year-old Shirasaki, who used the access to change his grade from a C to a B.
It was discovered later he’d altered several grades in other classes using the same tactic, going back several years – making both slight and obvious updates from C’s to B’s and F’s to A’s.
On at least one occasion Shirasaki allegedly augmented his girlfriend’s grade from an A to an A+, FOX59 reports. The girlfriend later divulged details of the plot to authorities and named the others involved as Sharma and Sun, both 24.
Shirasaki gained access by picking the locks of the professors’ offices and classrooms afterhours and surreptitiously tampering with their computer equipment, key-logging log-in information. Sun and Sharma complicitly aided the hacker in breaking into offices and serving as lookouts in order to receive better grades and advanced previews of test questions.
The three face upwards of 18 felonies, ranging from conspiracy to commit computer tampering and computer trespass to burglary, along with theft and receiving stolen property. Sun has a preexisting arrest from a November 2009 terroristic mischief charge.
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