Student Uses Keyloggers to Steal Exams and Change Grades

POSTED BY MARTIN KICH

Writing for the Associated Press, Ryan J. Foley has reported on a former University of Iowa wrestler who has been arrested on federal charges because he used keyloggers to gain access to faculty accounts and thereby get advance copies of exams and to change his own grades and those of some classmates at will. The charges that the student faces carry maximum sentences of 10 years in federal prison.

His scheme was uncovered when a faculty member noticed the changed grades and notified the university’s IT department. When the FBI raided his apartment and the apartments of several of his accomplices, they apparently found a great deal of evidence of the hacking, including not just copies of the exams and screen shots of changed grades, but also e-mails and text messages in which the student coordinated with his accomplices. In one of the messages included in Foley’s article, the student confirms to his other accomplices that the accomplice assigned to retrieve a keylogger is in the lab waiting for the faculty member to log off the instructor station and leave: “’Pineapple hunter is currently laying in wait in a classroom already.’” Despite the failure to attempt to conceal or to delete the communications, the student apparently felt the need to use certain code words, with “pineapple” being the code word for the keylogger.

In all, the student apparently changed his own grades at least 90 times over a 21-month period, while also changing the grades of at least five other students. Foley reports that “the university warned 250 faculty, staff and students in January that “unauthorized individuals” had obtained their HawkID and password information” and that the university “told the FBI it spent $68,000 investigating the breach and improving IT security.”

But the most astonishing detail in the article may be the following: “One student told the FBI that Graves shared copies of roughly a dozen exams before they took place, and the student accepted them because ‘he/she knew Graves was providing the copies to other students and did not want the grading curve to negatively impact his/her scores.’”

 

Foley’s complete article is available at: http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/university-of-iowa/2017/10/27/high-tech-cheating-scheme-prompts-charges-university-iowa/808335001/.

 

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