TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Three Purdue engineering students are facing several felony charges after prosecutors say they illegally accessed their professors' accounts and altered their grades to better scores.
According to Tippecanoe County court documents, on Jan. 3 the director of Information Technology Security Services for Purdue University (ITaP) contacted Purdue police concerning a student logging into a professor's University computer account and changing grades.
The professor twice contacted ITaP to request his password be reset, as someone had changed his password without his permission.
Purdue security analysts examined the log data for the professor's account, which showed that on Nov. 30, 2012, an unknown person from an IP address not affiliated with Purdue gained access to the professor's account and changed the password.
The professor contacted ITaP again on Dec. 18, 2012, on the same complaint. This time, ITaP was able to identify that an account by an individual, 24-year-old Mitsutoshi Shirasaki, logged onto the Purdue Air Link wireless network (PAL) and logged into the professor's account, changing Shirasaki's grade in his Controls Systems Lab class from a C to a B.
The Tippecanoe County Jail does not have a photo of Shirasaki at this time.
In further investigation, ITaP said it discovered grades in four of Shirasaki's other classes from that semester were also changed to a higher grade.
Investigators confirmed Shirasaki had accessed his professor's account through tracking an IP address to Shirasaki's address on campus. They also discovered various other professors' accounts were accessed by Shirasaki from computers on campus.
Furthermore, investigators say they found evidence of Shirasaki's grades being changed in previous semesters' professors' accounts. ITaP determined Shirasaki changed more than two dozen of his grades over the course of two years to higher grades.
Court documents show in some cases, F grades were changed to As or Bs, Cs were changed to As, and even As were changed to A-plusses. All professors officers have spoken with for those classes said they gave no permission for those grades to be changed.
Court documents say investigators found Shirasaki had been installing key-logging devices in various keyboards in classrooms and professors' offices in order to get keystroke data from the user. Investigators say Shirasaki would pick professors' office doors when locked, and through searches, several keyboards were found on campus that had been tampered with.
In a police interview with Shirasaki's girlfriend, she confirmed the grade-changing to investigators. She also told them Shirasaki had dumped all his used keyboards and his computer out in a country field when he found out police were investigating him. She admitted to Purdue police that Shirasaki had once changed one of her grades, but didn't inform her till afterward.
His girlfriend told investigators Shirasaki and 24-year-old Sujay Sharma and 24-year-old Roy Chaoran Sun were friends, and that Sun had advised Shirasaki on changing the grades and dumping the evidence.
Through more investigation, court documents say it was discovered that both Sharma and Sun helped Shirasaki break into professors' offices to plant the keystroke-tracking keyboards. Sharma and Sun admitted in interviews to helping Shirasaki by keeping a lookout when he broke into the offices.
Investigators say all three changed their grades by illegally accessing their professors' accounts. Court documents also say the men used the planted keyboards to access at least one professor's tests before taking the exams.
The entire investigation (which spanned from January to April) concluded in April when the three men were charged. The case was released to the public Thursday afternoon.
The three men face the following charges:
- Conspiracy to commit burglary, a Class C felony
- Conspiracy to commit theft, a Class D felony
- Conspiracy to commit computer tampering, a Class D felony
- Conspiracy to commit computer trespass, a Class A misdemeanor
- Several charges of burglary, Class C felonies
- Several charges of computer tampering, Class D felonies
- Several charges of theft, Class D felonies
- Several charges of receiving stolen property, Class D felonies
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