Higher education

Authorities: Former University of Iowa student used instructor passwords to access and change grades

Iowa City teen faces multiple charges in federal court

The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DAVENPORT — A 19-year-old former University of Iowa student was charged Thursday in federal court with using instructors’ passwords to access and change grades and get copies of exams for himself and others.

Trevor Graves, of Iowa City, appeared in U.S. District Court in the Southern District on Thursday and was charged with exceeding authorized access and knowingly causing the transmission of a code and command, and intentionally causing damage and loss that exceeded $5,000 to a UI protected computer, a criminal complaint shows.

U.S. District Chief Magistrate Stephen B. Jackson Jr. released Graves, pending further proceedings.

The complaint shows in mid-December 2016, a UI professor discovered an irregularity in Graves’ assignments, and quiz scores had been changed in a program that only instructors can access with passwords unique to them. The professor notified officials and an internal investigation eventually led to a criminal investigation conducted by the University of Iowa Police Department.

The dates and times faculty members sign into their accounts are maintained in a log by the university’s information services technology department, according to court documents. The system also tracks when a student record is changed and provides what internet address is used to log into the system.

Court documents show Graves is suspected of changing grades several times in 2016 — six on Oct. 4, one on Nov. 7, five on Nov. 15 and 11 on Nov. 28. Another student is suspected of changing three grades on Nov. 15, 2016, at the same time Graves did.

University of Iowa information technology services officials told police they thought a “keylogger” was inserted into one or more computers to record the passwords of instructors logging in, court documents show.

Iowa City police conducted a search at Graves’ residence on Dec. 29, 2016, and found several items, including thumb drives, four cellphones and two keyloggers.


Police also recovered text messages between Graves and a person identified as “A.B.,” as well as Graves and other students, regarding changing grades, the complaint shows. The examples of text messages are included in the affidavit.

In 2017, other students told authorities about Graves giving them copies of exams, according to court documents.

Authorities said all the professors associated with the grade changes denied making those changes, according to court documents.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com


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