Cheating student who hacked into university computer system to give himself a better degree is jailed
- Imran Uddin, 25, used a keyboard spying device to obtain staff passwords
- Final-year student hacked into exam system and upped his own marks
- He increased one of his bio-science grades from 57 per cent to 73 per cent
- Uddin admitted breaking Computer Misuse Act and was jailed for 4 months
A cheating student who hacked into university computers to give himself a better degree has been jailed.
Imran Uddin, 25, used a keyboard spying device to steal staff passwords and then upped five of his exam marks, including one from 57 per cent to 73 per cent.
The final-year bio-science student at the University of Birmingham had been expected to achieve at least a lower second class (2:2) degree, but the inflated marks could have increased his final grade.
Uddin, who is married, was yesterday jailed for four months after admitting six breaches to the Computer Misuse Act.
Judge James Burbidge QC told Uddin: ‘For reasons not entirely clear to me, whether it was monetary, or pride or a desire to out-perform others, you decided to cheat and you formed a settled intention to do that. I consider your actions were planned and persistent.
‘This kind of conduct undermines or has the potential to undermine public confidence in the degree system, set up by this university. I have decided I cannot pass a suspended sentence because there needs to be an element of deterrence.’
Birmingham Crown Court heard how Uddin attached a ‘shadowing’ keyboard device at the back of a number of university computers in order to steal staff passwords.
The device recorded the keystrokes staff members entered and transmitted them back to Uddin, who could then work out their log-in credentials.
Madhu Rai, prosecuting, said: ‘It is effectively a case where the defendant has hacked into a number of computers at the university where he was studying for a degree in bio-science.’
She said matters came to light on October 7 last year when two staff members carried out routine upgrades on a computer in a lecture theatre in the bio-science building.
When they removed protective casing they discovered a spying device had been attached to the back, which could record the keystrokes of anyone using the keyboard – including their passwords.
As a result other university computers were checked, and three other devices were found.
Miss Rai said one had been attached to a computer in a ‘staff only’ area to obtain the password of employee Christine Chapman, who had access to exam grade software.
Further inquiries revealed Uddin hacked into the university’s computer system to change five of his coursework results to a higher percentage. One paper was altered from a mark of 57 per cent – equal to a 2:2 – to 73.6 per cent, a first-class grade.
HOW THE SPY DEVICE WORKED
Uddin entered a staff only area at the university and attached the device to the back of a computer.
The ‘shadowing’ device recorded every symbol typed on the keyboard and transmitted what was entered back to Uddin’s computer.
From this, the student could work out the password of a member of staff, allowing to him to log in to the exam marking system and improve his own grades.
When the student’s home was searched, police found he had searched eBay on his computer for keyboard cheating devices and had also made attempts to access the university’s marking system.
Balbir Singh, defending, said Uddin was the only person from his family who had gone to university and at the time had put himself under so much pressure ‘that he could not see clearly.’
He added: ‘He was in his final year and was suspended. It is very unlikely that any other university will touch him after this. This is not a case where he was hopelessly failing and was not going to be able to succeed.’
A University of Birmingham spokeswoman said: ‘The University cannot comment on individual cases, however, we take any criminal activity extremely seriously and work closely with West Midlands Police.
‘In additional to any legal sanctions, students convicted of serious crimes face a student misconduct investigation and ultimately face permanent exclusion.’