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.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 1:06am

    Typo

    'of which he'll only server 90 days'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Violynne (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:32am

    Anyone else curious as to what charge he was given for altering his grades?

    Explusion is one thing, but this takes the Looney Tunes approach to law "enforcement".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:34am

    A promising career indeed

    Smart enough to cheat and (almost) get away with it, arrogant and dismissive when caught, lazy enough to want to avoid any actual work, and now with a felony record for his actions...

    Seems like someone's gunning for a political office.

     

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  4.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:53am

    Greed. If he used it only to change a select few bad grades he could have gone out undetected. Eventually greed will make you leave evidence behind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:56am

    Re:

    'Only a few' would have required him to actually do some work and earn the grades he didn't change though, something he was apparently too freakin' lazy to want to do.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 3:58am

    Good luck getting a job with a felony record

    With so many companies doing background checks on new hires, I bet he will have a tough time getting a professional job. He better consider an entrepreneurial path. But that would take hard work, something he doesn't seem willing to do.

     

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  7.  
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    Andreas (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:21am

    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...

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:43am

    Four years for (apparently) illegal use of an electronic device or something like that.

    vs

    Huge taxpayer funded bonus and no investigation or prosecution for fraud, insider trading and grand larceny which caused crash of the world economy.

    Justice ... how does it work?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:53am

    Re:

    Anyone else curious as to what charge he was given for altering his grades?

    was already earning $70,000 a year with his engineering degree./

    so I would guess it was for giving fraudulent information to an employer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Chris ODonnell (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:55am

    He could have been lazy and still graduate from Purdue with a 2.8. It worked for me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 5:17am

    if he actually did change all of them significantly, was there really no-one every wachting those grades, going 'hm. someone should check this'. Never mind security, what happened to common sense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Ben (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    Wrong movie?

    I do not admit knowing this: I thought Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller's Day Off only changed his attendance record. It is in WarGames that he actually changes grades.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:20am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:32am

    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.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 6:50am

    Re:

    How about your standard haxxoring systems or unauthorized access that Aaron Swartz was being harassed over by Department of InJustice?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:10am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Stephen Morrow, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:34am

    Got an F for covering his tracks?

    I'm confused. What was it that he did/didn't do to cover his tracks? Did the article cover this or did I read it and forget already?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 7:43am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 8:43am

    Re: The Charge Was...

    If any school would actually let him in. I have always thought that our justice system puts people in a position that that only way to get anywhere beyond a dead end job is to do additional crime.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 8:48am

    Re: Typo

    It is the newish punishment. They transform them into a server for 90 days *shudders. What a horrible human rights abuse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Doug, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 10:27am

    Re:

    He broke federal law by illegally accessing a protected computer system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    PRMan, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 10:54am

    Re: Wrong movie?

    That's the same thing I was thinking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 11:00am

    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.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2014 @ 11:55am

    Re:

    F = fail.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    John85851 (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:07pm

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 11th, 2014 @ 4:08pm

    Re: Re: I was accused of this once

    BTW, the inside job is by far the most common thing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 12th, 2014 @ 7:40am

    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.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Mar 12th, 2014 @ 4:50pm

    The future looks bright....

    He'll likely hack the prison records and get released after 6 months and then hack the federal computers to remove his record of arrest and incarceration by changing the name on the documents.

    He'll then be recruited by the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    Aaron (profile), Mar 13th, 2014 @ 12:10am

    Re: Another security researcher ready to be hired

    The article says his "hacking" was actually replacing professors' keyboards with similar-looking keyboards containing keyloggers. That doesn't sound too impressive to me, though it is ballsy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Mar 13th, 2014 @ 9:20am

    Re: Re:

    No, he used a script to speed up the download of documents from JSTOR, which were already available to the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    adam, Mar 6th, 2015 @ 8:59am

    looking for a real hacker to solve your problems ? change your grades ? erase your criminal records ? spy on your cheating souse ? you can get a hold of me adam_loudon@outlook.com 570 290 8280

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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