College Kid Tries To Pull A Ferris Bueller On His Grades, Gets An 'F' In Covering His Tracks

from the anyone?-anyone?-buehler? dept

We’ve covered stories in the past involving students attempting to hack into school networks for the purpose of changing their grades. I’ll admit this was something of an obsession of mine when I was younger as well, because apparently the work acquiring the skills to pull this off was somehow less of an effort than just reading a damned textbook once in a while.

In any case, this is apparently a thing students still occasionally attempt. An alumnus of Purdue University allegedly decided he’d have a better shot at getting into another school for his master’s degree if he altered his previous college marks electronically. Police released the following mugshot of the perp.

Okay, fine, so the actual perp’s name is Roy Sun, a 25 year old who was already earning $70,000 a year with his engineering degree. Once it was discovered that he had changed his grades electronically, Sun was sentenced to four years in jail, of which he’ll only serve 90 days, with the balance being served on supervised probation. Sun’s willingness to be forthcoming on what he did is impressive.

Sun first hacked into a professor’s computer account and changed his grade in 2008. He said he volunteered to be the guinea pig to see if he and fellow Purdue student Mitsutoashi Shirasaki would get caught. They didn’t, which emboldened Sun.

“When I came back in 2009, I felt really arrogant,” he said during the sentencing hearing. “I thought I was untouchable. It became so much easier to change my grades than going to class and working real hard.”

So with the exception of one course, Sun quit attending classes his senior year and still received straight A’s.

Well, okay then. This seems to raise the more alarming question of how network security at Purdue is handled, given the ease with which Sun seemed to play master over his electronic marks. That isn’t to say that Sun doesn’t cut an impressive figure, however. The judge handling his case noted as much.

Before sentencing, Judge Thomas Busch said, “The most troubling thing about this is how brilliant you are and how capable your are to devise this and carry it out. … I worry about people who are as bright as you who are as dishonest as you because you can do more damage.”

One wonders why someone so brilliant couldn’t devise a way to better cover his tracks, however. Instead, Sun will have to live the rest of his life as a convicted felon and figure out a way to either get another school to accept him and pursue a degree, or else pursue work in the technology world without such a degree. This isn’t unheard of, of course, but it seems Sun made his life a lot harder by trying to cheat on his marks.

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Comments on “College Kid Tries To Pull A Ferris Bueller On His Grades, Gets An 'F' In Covering His Tracks”

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Andreas (profile) says:

Re: Good luck getting a job with a felony record

I don’t think he’ll have a hard time. If you’re good, people will take you in. And if background checks are tight in the united states, he can always go abroad, where nobody cares about strange sentences in the US.

I mean, 1 year of prison for electronic fraud, what the hell…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Good luck getting a job with a felony record

With lawsuits and liability what they are these days, a company would open themselves up to a major lawsuit by hiring a felon if that felon then commits more crime. Imaging hiring an embezzler in an accounting firm? Or this guy, a hacker, in a consulting firm only to have him hack your clients? I can about guarantee that any company doing background checks will not hire this guy.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

if he actually did change all of them significantly, was there really no-one every wachting those grades, going ‘hm. someone should check this’.

He would have changed them after they were entered by the professors (or TAs or whoever). The teachers would then have no particular reason to keep an eye on the grades in the computer, and office personnel would have no reason to suspect any particular student shouldn’t be getting straight A’s – they have no idea whether he’s attending class or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Charge Was...

For those wondering what the charge was, it appears that it was computer tampering, under Indiana law IC 35-43-1-4.

In addition to computer tampering, the original charges included burglary (they entered an area that was a professor’s only area and removed a keyboard), and forgery (which I can only assume relates to electronically signing documents in place of the professor responsible).

It appears that Roy Sun pleaded to two charges of computer tampering in exchange for the other charges being dropped.

For those who seem to think that Roy Sun will be snapped up quickly by employers, you should be aware that he has lost his somewhat lucrative engineering job, he has been stripped of his BS in engineering, he has been kicked out of graduate school, and he has been working as a bus boy prior to his conviction. Furthermore, none of his courses at Purdue are transferable any longer, so if he ever wants to get a degree, he will have to start from scratch.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve heard of someone who did this like 15 years ago, in a grade book the high school teacher left out on their table at the front of the room when they stepped out briefly.

In front of everyone, the student ran up to the empty table, and started to write numbers in for his grades.

Even without witnesses he would have been caught easily, because he did things like give himself a 75 on a quiz where 5 was the highest score you could get.

PRMan (profile) says:

I was accused of this once

I was accused of changing grades at the university I worked at once. A random guy’s grade went from C- to A and the teacher noticed because she went back in and saw it.

Now, this was over 20 years ago on a minicomputer system with very good security so it wasn’t like a random student could hack it because nobody at the college (except those that worked for us) would ever have access to this kind of minicomputer. They could barely use PCs (in DOS) back then.

Anyway, the records attendant accused me of doing it because I had access. I told her that the computer said that she did it. She then said that I could have changed it to say that she did it. I told her that if I had changed it, it would still say that the teacher had done it.

I asked her who else had her password. She said, “Nobody”.

The very next day, I see this guy hanging out in the records office with one of her student workers. “Name of guy that got his grade changed?” “Yeah, that’s me.”

Turns out she gave her password to her student worker against policy and she changed the grade for her boyfriend.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: I was accused of this once

Things never change!

In this day and age, everyone focuses on fancy hacking as the thing to watch out for. But when you actually look at the way things really get hacked, you find that most are one of these: an inside job performed by someone abusing their legitimate access, a person with legitimate access gave out their password to someone, or a password was guessed.

All of the security technology in the world can’t stop the most commonly used hacking technique: social engineering.

John85851 (profile) says:

Another security researcher ready to be hired

Why does he get an “F” for failing to cover his tracks? He admitted that it was an easy job in 2008 so he did the same thing in 2009 and was only caught later. It doesn’t sound like he even wanted to cover his tracks.

Like you said, this is more about the school’s security system: how did he “hack” a professor’s computer? Did he even “hack” it or is this the term the media is using to mean “guessed the correct password”?

In the end, this guy will probably get a job in the computer security field where his conviction will actually be a *benefit*: he’s proved that he’s so go at “hacking” that he was sent to jail for it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Another security researcher ready to be hired

Why does he get an “F” for failing to cover his tracks? He admitted that it was an easy job in 2008 so he did the same thing in 2009 and was only caught later. It doesn’t sound like he even wanted to cover his tracks.

It’s pretty simple really. If he had done a good job covering his tracks, he wouldn’t have been caught. He did get caught, therefore he didn’t do a good job covering his tracks. Therefore Mike assigned him the grade of F.

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