Roy Sun, 25, was a $70,000-a-year electrical engineer straight out of college. And why not? He'd gone to one of the best engineering schools in the country. He even studied, um, computer security in his free time. Which he had a lot of, since he never went to class.
Sun was sentenced to 90 days in jail last week for computer tampering after he and two undergraduate classmates were accused of hacking into Purdue University's data system and changing their bad grades to As. According to the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal & Courier:
Sun first hacked into a professor's computer account and changed his grade in 2008. He said he volunteered to be the guinea pig to see if he and fellow Purdue student Mitsutoashi Shirasaki would get caught. They didn't, which emboldened Sun.
"When I came back in 2009, I felt really arrogant," he said during the sentencing hearing. "I thought I was untouchable.
"It became so much easier to change my grades than going to class and working real hard."
So with the exception of one course, Sun quit attending classes his senior year and still received straight A's.
Sun's attorney pointed out that he did attend face-to-face small course with a professor, who granted him an A on his merits.
Would-be Ferris Buellers, take note:
Sun explained how he and Shirasaki had perfected a system of hacking into professors' accounts about 10 minutes before the professors' deadline to submit final grades for the semester.
They knew the deadline because they had hacked the professors' accounts, and the deadline was generally late at night, Sun said, and was not a time that a professor would likely catch them. They changed Sun and Shirasaki's grades, and later changed one grade for their friend, Sujay Sharma, who was not aware of their intervention, Sun said.
How did they hack in, you ask? Well, that apparently required some quiet incursions into profs' and administrators' offices to swap out their usual keyboards with a keylogging version, using that to record the university workers' activities and passwords.
"The most troubling thing about this is how brilliant you are and how capable you are to devise this and carry it out," Judge Thomas Busch told Sun at his sentencing. "I worry about people who are as bright as you who are as dishonest as you because you can do more damage."
Worry? About an enterprising young genius such as this? Judge Busch is soooo 20th century analog. Clearly, they don't have TEDtalks in Lafayette, Indiana.