November 8, 2017

Ex-Iowa College Charged for Hacking University Systems 90 times to Change Grades

A former student at the University of Iowa has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly hacking into the school’s systems to obtain the copies of the test papers in advance and for changing his and the classmate’s grades.

According to the FBI, the 22-year-old Trevor Graves who was involved in the high-tech cheating scheme secretly installed plug keyloggers in the computers in university classrooms to record whatever his professors typed including their credentials to log into university grading and email systems. He then used that information to sneak into professors’ accounts to get the question papers in advance and to change the grades of tests, quizzes and homework assignments.


The accused Colorado native reportedly changed his grades more than 90 times over a 21-month period between March 2015 and December 2016, and also changed grades for at least five other students on numerous occasions. Graves allegedly compromised the integrity of a wide range of classes, including business, engineering, and chemistry.

One student confessed to FBI that Graves shared copies of a dozen exams before they took place, and the student confessed that he/she 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,” according to a report by NYTimes.

The officials arrested Graves at the end of last month in Denver his hometown. He was later released on a bond two days before an initial court appearance in Iowa. The accused is charged with “intentionally accessing a computer without authorization to obtain information, and knowingly transmitting a computer program to cause damage. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.”


The university officials got the awareness about the cheating scandal when an instructor found and reported to the campus IT security officials that the grades she assigned weren’t matching the final grades. Later the university warned 250 faculty, staff and students in January that “unauthorized individuals” had obtained their HawkID and password information.

The university then sought the help of FBI which launched an investigation into the security breach. FBI along with Iowa university police searched Graves apartment in Iowa City where they found keyloggers, cellphones and thumb drives that allegedly contained copies of some intercepted exams. The police even got a screenshot of Graves being logged into a professor’s email account and highlighting an attachment entitled “exam,” in a cellphone.

They found several other text conversations between Grave and other students which mentioned about the cheating scheme. Graves referred to keyloggers as pineapple in the messages and he even asked a classmate of his to check if the teacher logged into her account in a message.

The university told the FBI agents that it has spent $68,000 on investigating the security breach and also for taking appropriate measures to improve the IT security.

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