Friday 3:45 p.m. – Update
Court records outline details of three students accused of changing grades in an elaborate case.
With a total of 58 charges between the three students, Roy Sun received 13 counts of charges, Mitsutoshi Shirasaki received 20 and Sujay Sharma received 13.
The charges were a combination of Class C and D felonies and Class A misdemeanors.
It is alleged that Shirasaki's girlfriend Xiaonan Jing, an undergraduate in the College of Science, may have been involved in the case. Jing's grades were also changed as one of her classes, a Japanese class from Fall 2012, from an A to an A+, by Shirasaki, according to court records.
The students are of accused breaking into a number of classrooms and computer labs from October 2009 to March 2013, but they also purchased locks from Wal-Mart and practiced picking them.
Court documents indicate, the students took turns practicing picking locks, standing as lookouts, breaking into the computer labs, placing keyloggers into keyboards and cutting wires in keyboards. They then are accused of accessing keystroke information from the keyboards and use this to enter professors' login information into computer systems.
In March of 2013, Sun and Shirasaki exchanged telephone calls expressing the possibility of the police tracing the crimes back to them and the need to get rid of evidence, which is believed they did around Tippecanoe County. Sun was also concerned the Sharma had too much information and "coudn't keep his mouth shut."
Sun graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor's of Science in Electrical Engineering and is currently at Boston University as a graduate student.
A number of professors were involved in the grade changes from several colleges in the University: Liberal Arts, Engineering and Science.
Three students have been involved in hacking into a professor’s computer and changing the grades they had received, which has resulted in two arrests and a lengthy investigation.
Two current engineering students, Sujay Sharma and Mitsutoshi Shirasaki, have been arrested by the Purdue University Police Department (PUPD) on a lengthy list of charges from burglary, to computer tampering, to forgery. Former student, Roy Sun, is also involved in the case. Sun is now a graduate student at Boston University. He is currently in his home country of Japan and his future has yet to be determined.
The case arose in January when a Purdue professor alerted Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) that his University account password had been changed, along with the security question he had set. This is when he also noticed that grades had been changed from previous semesters.
The three students somehow switched the keyboards in an ITaP computer lab that a professor used received information from there to change the grades. The exact methods the student used to hack into the system and change the grades is still under investigation.
Grade changes were as subtle as A to A+ and as drastic as D’s to A’s, yet the motives behind these actions are unclear.
John Cox, police chief for PUPD, said the police have been working with ITaP, the FBI, Boston University Police Department and the case prosecutor Pat Harrington to investigate the situation since January. Cox said that this case was the first of this magnitude.
“This was no outside attack,” Cox said. “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 there has been an internal audit to check for “anomalies” to make sure this was an isolated event over the last few years.
“There are thousands of grade changes every year in the system,” Cox said. “To see there were 30-something grades that were changed that’s unfortunate, you don’t want one grade changed like that ... It was the biggest case like that, that we’ve ever seen so far.”
Sharma and Shirasaki are no longer enrolled at Purdue and their grades have been changed back to reflect what each student had originally received. They also face local and state charges for the grade changes.
According to Jeff Stefancic, associate dean for the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, the University is still looking at Roy’s status as he is no longer a Purdue student.
“We can examine a student’s graduation status and potentially revoke a degree that was granted if the situation warrants it. That’s currently under our administrative review right now,” Stefancic said.
Cox said that ITaP is working to increase security and make it more challenging to get into the system, but that work is done every day by ITaP, not in response to this case.
“It gets a little tougher when you start having things like iPads and laptops floating around out there ... working wirelessly. We’ve done an awful lot with ITaP and ITaP has done a really nice job of working with that,” Cox said.