Student allegedly used a keylogger to change his grade more than 90 times
A former University of Iowa student is in hot water for allegedly using a keylogger to change his and five classmates’ grades. Amazingly, this ruse went undetected for 20 months, between March 2015 and November 2016.
Trevor Graves, aged 22, would allegedly work with another student, where one would plant the keylogger and the other would attend the lecture to ensure the lecturer had logged in to their university account. Once confirmed, the students would retrieve the keylogger and use the collected login credentials to break into the system, adjust grades and share upcoming exam papers with other students. No two-factor-authentication, y’see.
You may wonder why the students needed to lift the exam papers if they could simply change the grades without revising. The answer seems to be that Graves would only slightly adjust students’ scores to avoid arousing suspicions – which was a smart move, as people cheating the system in the past have sometimes been known to be too ambitious.
Still, even these minor changes were enough to arouse suspicion. When a teacher spotted the altered grades, the staff member immediately got the university’s IT department to investigate. After finding the evidence of a keylogger, the university contacted the FBI which used a warrant to raid Graves’ home.
Lifting the suspect’s computer, phone and thumb drives, they found records of past conversations between Graves and his fellow students, in which keyloggers were referred to as “pineapples” and “pineappler”.
In that context, it’s hard to make the case you’re actually talking about tropical fruits (though they are indeed “sweet”).
While the FBI searched other students’ houses, they only ended up charging Graves – as the damages are over $5,000 (quite a way over, as the investigation cost $67,500), a criminal charge had to be made. If he’s found guilty, past precedent suggests he’s looking at probation and community service.