SMU student who deleted exam scripts for fear of doing badly sentenced to 2 months' jail

Georgy Kotsaga thought that by deleting the scripts, he would get a chance to take the examination again.
Georgy Kotsaga thought that by deleting the scripts, he would get a chance to take the examination again. PHOTO: PIKORE/@GEORGE717

SINGAPORE - A Singapore Management University (SMU) Juris Doctor programme student deleted his and 18 fellow students' examination scripts when he realised that he would not do very well , a court heard on Feb 4.

Georgy Kotsaga, 32, thought that by deleting the scripts, he would get a chance to take the examination again.

But SMU's IT system makes real-time back-ups. So, all the examination scripts were recovered.

On Tuesday (Feb 16), the Russian was jailed for two months after he admitted to unauthorised access to computer material and unauthorised modification of computer material last November.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said Kotsaga and 18 others took the final examination for a Law of Property module at SMU in Victoria Street, through the eLearn system, on Nov 24.

The offences came to light when a student e-mailed the university to say that the system showed that she had not completed the examination.

Checks found that there were no scripts whereas the database history showed 19 scripts. Investigation showed that the account "hwtang'', belonging to Professor Tang Hang Wu, had deleted the 19 scripts on Nov 24.

The device used to delete them was traced to Kotsaga's account. The "hwtang'' account was also used to access the account of another law professor, Professor Zhang Wei.

DPP Khoo said Kotsaga was worried that his Grade Point Average (GPA) at 3.09 would fall below 3.0 after the examination. So he decided to get the account credentials of the two law professors conducting the subject modules he was weak in.

He bought a USB hardware keylogger from Sim Lim Square, plugged it into the common desktop computers in the professors' respective classrooms and managed to capture their user ids and passwords.

On Nov 24, when he and 18 others were taking the final examination for the Law of Property module, he had difficulties answering the questions.

He went to the toilet and used his iPhone to access the eLearn Instructor account of Prof Tang and viewed the scripts of the other students taking the examination hoping to find useful information.

After the examination that day, he accessed the account of "hwtang'' again to view the examination script of another student for the module. He realised that he would not do very well and deleted all 19 examination scripts.

He could have been fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to two years for unauthorised access, and fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to three years for unauthorised modification.