Purdue Students Face Felony Charges In Alleged Hacking Scheme To Change Grades

Three students from Purdue University in Indiana face felony charges for their roles in a scheme in which the students allegedly boosted their grades by breaking into professors' accounts and in some cases their offices.

Roy Chaoran Sun, an electrical engineering graduate, and current engineering students Mitsutoshi Shirasaki and Sujay Sharma face a slew of felony and misdemeanor charges for more than 30 alleged grade changes dating back to 2009, the Lafayette Journal & Courier reports.

John Cox, chief of police for Purdue University, told the Purdue Exponent it's the biggest grade-changing scheme he's ever seen.

"This was [done by] some students who were very smart and used their knowledge and wisdom to do something they shouldn't have," Cox said.

The charges include conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy to commit computer tampering, conspiracy to commit computer trespass, burglary, forgery, computer tampering, theft and receiving stolen property. The charges were filed in April, but were unsealed Thursday, according to the Journal & Courier.

Sun, who subsequently enrolled in a graduate program at Boston University, is accused of changing his grades from 2008 through spring 2010. His grades were raised from nine F's and one incomplete to straight A's, court records said. Sun would later change grades for Shirasaki and show him how to alter grades on his own.

Shirasaki allegedly changed his grades from a F's to A's, but also from D's and C's to B's. Court papers said Sharma had one grade raised from a D to an A, but is also accused of accessing exams without authorization and working with Shirasaki to break into professors' offices.

Shirasaki and Sharma worked together to pick the locks to the offices of instructors and swapped their keyboards with others on which they had installed key-logging devices, according court documents.

Shirasaki's girlfriend Xiaonan Jing also had one grade changed in fall 2012 from an A to an A+, the Exponent reports. She told police Shirasaki disclosed his grade-changing scheme to her.

Purdue was tipped off when a professor needed to have his password reset twice in late 2012 because someone had changed it. WXIN reports computer security analysts noticed that the professor's account had been accessed and its password changed from an IP address not affiliated with the university. Purdue's Information Technology Security Services then contacted police to investigate the matter.

Sharma and Shirasaki are no longer enrolled at Purdue and their grades were reverted to their original marks, the Associated Press reports.

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