A 25-year-old student was recently sentenced to four months of time in an English jail after it was discovered he had hacked into campus computers at the University of Birmingham to alter his grades. He successfully did so, but was remiss to think that maybe his teachers would notice.
From The Daily Mail:
Imran Uddin, 25, who was studying science, bought keyboard spying equipment on the internet which he then connected to a number of university computers.
Through the software, which recorded key strokes, he was able to find out the passwords that staff were typing in to log in to the computers. He then used those passwords to log on to their accounts himself.
After hacking into the university computer system, Uddin changed the marks that he had been given for previous assessments.
On one paper, he upped his mark from 57 per cent, a lower second grade, to 73 per cent, a first.
He carried out his plot using keyboard ‘shadowing’ devices which look like a USB stick and can be bought for as little as £49 on the internet.
He plugged these into the back of a number of staff computers at the University of Birmingham where he was studying.
Okay, a few thoughts here. First thing, if you’re going to hack in and change your grade from a pitiful 57%, why settle with just bumping it up to a low C average? If I’m taking the kind of risks this kid did (I would never, but hypothetically) I’m pushing the limits and going with like a 93%, no question about that. If I’m going down, sugar I’m going down swinging, that’s for sure.
Second, why the hell is he worried about failing his classes!? It’s like, dude, you’re smart enough to hack, per se, into a pretty-well known university’s computer system using stuff you bought on EBay…like, maybe there’s a future for you doing that kind of thing and putting it to practical use? On the plus side, I guess this could always come up in a job interview, and maybe some recruiters would find the story – regardless of the jail time – kind of alluring? I’ve heard crazier things.
Also, I’m torn between thinking that this kid actually had some skills and know-how, or if the University of Birmingham just has horrible cyber-security issues. I mean, if I’m Inram here, that’s the card I play every time at trial.
Like, “Hey guys, I just discovered a really big loophole in your systems, and I think maybe some students could use it to change their grades. See, this is how I did it…no malice intent, just proof for you, you know.”
But apparently, the judge in Birmingham’s Crown Court didn’t see it that way, and rightfully speaking, there’s no way you could expect him to, because of precedents and all that legal stuff.
[Uddin] was jailed for four months at Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday after admitting six charges which were in breach of the Computer Misuse Act.
Sentencing him, Judge James Burbridge said it was unclear why Uddin had tried to change his grades.
Judge Burbridge said: ‘For reasons not entirely clear to me, whether it was monetary, or pride, or a desire to outperform others, you decided to cheat and you formed a settled intention to do that. I consider your actions were planned and persistent.’
He warned that Uddin’s behaviour could have undermined public confidence in the degree system. The judge added that he felt compelled to put Uddin behind bars as a ‘deterrence’ to others.
Judge Burbridge said: ‘This kind of conduct undermines, or has the potential to undermine, public confidence in the degree system, set up by this university. I have decided I cannot pass a suspended sentence because there needs to be an element of deterrence.’
Not the kind of “college mistake” you can just get over and live with, that’s for sure.
According to reports, Uddin was slated to earn a 2:2 degree at the time he changed his grades, which I believe is the American equivalent of “without honors,” or “without distinction.” In total, the investigation revealed he altered five grades over time with the aim of obtaining a first-class degree, and the help of three spying devices he covertly planted inside university computers.
His attorney remarked that Uddin “was the first person in his family to go to college, so he felt intense pressure to succeed,” and that, “he could not see clearly,” at the time of the incidents.
He must’ve been under a lot of pressure, because the more I think about it, this hacking tomfoolery was definitely no quick and easy task.
Wouldn’t it have been easier to just hit the books and study? They always say hindsight is 20/20, and in Uddin’s case, he’ll have about four months to reflect on that and study up while he’s at it.