A former SCU student brought the hacking scandal to light.
Santa Clara University’s (SCU) academic records database was recently hacked to improve the grades of more than 60 former and current undergraduate students, the university announced Monday.
The university called in the FBI, which is assisting in the ongoing investigation, according to university officials. No arrests have been reported.
“We are taking it quite seriously,” said Dennis Jacobs, Santa Clara’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We are reviewing and enhancing all security measures to reduce the likelihood of any intrusion in the future.”
The FBI, in a written statement issued Monday, confirmed it is involved in the investigation.
SCU officials said they were unaware of any other hacking incidents at the university.
This one was particularly sophisticated, they said, and was only discovered when a former student came forward in August because she noticed a grade on her transcript was better than the one on a previously printed transcript.
SCU officials launched a probe that reviewed tens of thousands of student records going back more than a decade.
At SCU, grades cannot be changed without a strict protocol that includes signatures, a review and a software audit of approvals. But the probe found unauthorized grade changes on student transcripts across all three of the University’s schools going back to 2006.
Hacking into the system sometime between June 2010 and July of this year, the cyber-intruder
made changes that ranged from subtle upgrades to major changes that turned F’s into A’s.
There was no obvious pattern to the changes, Jacobs said.
Neither school officials nor the FBI would comment on the identities of any suspects, or even whether they had any information that the suspect was a current or former student.
But SCU student Mark Loiseau told the Mercury News that he was closely questioned by FBI agents Monday. The 25-year-old electrical engineering major said he was about to go to sleep about 10 a.m. when two FBI agents showed up at his door.
They pulled out hundreds of pages of his Verizon cell phone records, he said, and began asking a series of “pointed” questions.
Loiseau said the agents asked him if he had accessed somebody’s computer, and if he noticed that about 18 grades of his were changed from F to A. Loiseau said he answered “no” to both questions, stating he had good grades, and had certainly never received 18 F’s.
“They were playing good cop, bad cop,” Loiseau said.
Loiseau denied he had anything to do with the hacking. After the FBI agents visited him, he said he checked his academic records. It indicated he received an A in a freshman political science course, and he’s sure he actually received a lower grade.
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