Hacker breached, changed grades in university academic record system

Santa Clara University, a private university run by the Jesuits and located in the Silicon Valley, has issued a statement confirming that it has called the FBI to investigate an intrusion into its computerized academic record system.

According to the investigation, over 60 former and a handful of current students have been affected by a change in their grades during the last year or so, and seeing that the grades have always been – sometimes subtly, sometimes drastically – changed for the better, the FBI suspects the intrusion was the result of a pointed effort.

The university was alerted to the fact that something was amiss when a student came forward and pointed out that a grade in one of her recent transcripts was not what it should have been and what she remembers it to be.

In order to change a grade, the system requires a few signatures, a review and a software audit of approvals, and the university’s internal investigation could not find a clear indication of why or how the aforementioned student’s grade was changed.

The FBI still hasn’t found a definite connection between the affected students or a pattern to the changes, but apparently does have some leads and potential suspects in mind. One of those is current senior electrical engineering student Mark Loiseau, who has received a visit from the Bureau’s agents on Monday and has tweeted about it.

According to CNET, the agents came equipped with printouts of data from Google and Verizon, and dossiers on him and his friends.

They asked Loiseau about why he has deleted his Google Voice history after he had placed calls around the time of the intrusions on your Google Voice number, and suggested he was involved in the grade changing.

They also asked him to give permission to access his computer, but he didn’t give it since they didn’t have a warrant for it. He justifies that decision by saying that some of the material on it – music and video files – may not have come from legal sources.

“There is no evidence to suggest that other personal information of students, staff or faculty has been compromised,” said the university in the statement. “The university is contacting individual faculty members whose grades appear to be inappropriately modified to verify that they did not authorize any of the undocumented grade changes.”

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