Alumnus attempts to change GPA by hiring hackers to infiltrate university database

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    Administrators say a hare-brained scheme attributed to a TCU alumnus to break into the university’s database never had a chance.Newspapers and web publications reported in December that Todd Shriber, a 2000 TCU graduate, attempted to have his grade point average changed. Shriber was fired from his position as communications director for Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg after he informed his boss about the articles detailing his plan, Rehberg’s chief of staff said.

    Shriber, 28, graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism and was a reporter for the Skiff during the fall of 1997.

    Through the course of 41 exchanged e-mails posted in the “Going Postal” section of Internet security Web site attrition.org, a man who identified himself as Shriber discussed his offer to pay well for a one-time job requiring “Lyger” and “Jericho,” respondents posing as hackers, to bypass TCU’s network security measures and change his grade point average.

    Although this hacking attempt was never a reality, it raises concerns about the safety of student’s personal information.

    Jim Mayne, a TCU network security engineer, said it is his job to keep student information safe.

    “Nobody has ever broken into the servers and changed or collected data,” Mayne said.

    Mayne said that students should be more concerned about what measures they are taking to guard their personal data outside of TCU’s network.

    According to attrition.org, Lyger and Jericho were urged to continue with the request, despite warnings from the two hackers that taking such actions could lead to jail sentences for all parties involved.

    Lyger said in an e-mail interview that the two “hackers” never attempted to break into TCU’s network but kept e-mail contact regularly, telling Shriber false details about their progress.

    “We never considered helping, seriously or otherwise,” Lyger said via e-mail about the proposition made by Shriber, whom Lyger described as, “either misinformed or misguided, possibly both.”

    Throughout a two-week period in August, according to attrition.org e-mails, the man who identified himself as Shriber complied with Lyger and Jericho, sending them e-mails containing personal information including his full name, student ID number, user name, password, date of birth and social security number, while emphasizing the importance of his privacy. As their requests went from serious to outlandish, according to the e-mails, Shriber willingly went along with the plan, including a request e-mailed by Jericho for photos of a pigeon or squirrel.

    “Pigeons are funny and misunderstood birds. Squirrels are great little creatures with outstanding tails,” Jericho wrote when asked why the photos were requested.

    The plan came to an end on Aug. 27, when Lyger wrote to him that their fake hacking attempt had been detected, causing them both to be wanted by the law.

    According to criminal-law-lawyer-source.com, computer hacking is a felony offense and solicitation of a felony could result in half the sentence of those committing the crime. A representative for Rehberg’s office couldn’t be reached to answer if charges were filed against Shriber.