Student jailed for hacking into university computer system

A university student who hacked into a computer system to improve his grades is thought to be the first ever British student to be jailed for cheating.

Jailed for four months, Imran Uddin, a student at the University of Birmingham, used a keyboard spying device to steal staff passwords and then increase his marks on five exams, including one from 57 per cent to 73 per cent.

The 25-year old student was pursuing his final year of a bio-science course and was expecting to achieve at least a lower second class degree.

But he was jailed at Birmingham Crown Court after admitting six charges contrary 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.”

Mr Uddin, who is married, attached a “shadowing” keyboard device at the back of a number of university computers in order to steal staff passwords, the court heard.

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.”

The court heard Mr Uddin came under suspicion on October 7 last year when two staff members carried out routine upgrade on a computer in the bio-science building.

A spying device was discovered attached to the back of the computer when staff removed protective casing.

The device could record the key strokes of anyone using the keyboard – including their passwords, Ms Rai said.

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.

Police found Mr Uddin had made ebay searches on his computer for keyboard cheating devices. He had also tried to enter the university marking system.

Balbir Singh, defending, said Mr 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.”

A spokeswoman for Birmingham University 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 also face a student misconduct investigation and ultimately face permanent exclusion.”

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