Detailed by the Indianapolis Star, three Purdue students have been charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors related to a scheme to change their class grades from failing scores to a collection of A’s and Bs. 24-year-old Roy Chaoran Sun, 24-year-old Mitsutoshi Shirasaki and 24-year-old Sujay Sharma used key logging devices to collect passwords from their class professors in order to access the school’s record keeping system for grades. The three face charges of conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy to commit computer tampering and conspiracy to commit computer trespass.
In order to get access to a professor’s keyboard, the trio would break into a professor’s office on the Purdue campus and replace the keyboard with an identical model. After installing a key logging device within the keyboard, the amateur burglary team would break back into the offices in order to swap the original keyboard back onto the professor’s desk.
According to police, the three men would move out of sight of the cameras in the building to avoid detection. When the professor would return to his office, the team would simply wait for the professor to type out his passwords.
The first set of grade changes occurs during May 2008 when Sun, an electrical engineering major at the time, altered his nine F’s and one incomplete into a set of passing grades. Shirasaki, an aeronautics and astronautics major, also allegedly altered 24 grades over his four years at Purdue. Not only satisfied with changing failing grades to passing scores, Shirasaki also modified grades in classes where he received an A already; specifically bumping it up to an A+. Sharma, a nuclear engineering major, only changed a single grade from a D to an A and acted as the lookout during the keyboard thefts.
Purdue’s IT department started to get wind of the potential security leak after a professor complained about his password being changed. Once the IT department identified when the password was altered, they also noticed a grade had been changed as well.
School officials were able to identify Shirasaki after the student logged into the Purdue wireless network under his own account in order to change the grade.
While Shirasaki is currently in Japan, both Sharma and Sun were arrested by police. Sharma, facing less severe charges when arrested in May, posted $5,000 in bail on the day after his arrest. Sun, arrested last week, remains in jail due to a much larger $125,000 surety and $125,000 cash bond. Sun is a graduate student at Boston University, but it’s likely that the university will kick him out of the program due to these charges.
According to school officials, the validity of Sun’s degree will be undergoing a degree revocation hearing in which Sun will be given an opportunity to speak about his actions. In addition, the school went through an internal audit of all grade changes over the last few years in order to look for more possible hacking. No issues have been found with any grade changes beyond the incidents involving Sun, Shirasaki and Sharma.