Student who hacked university system and made £20k selling exam papers jailed for 20 months

Hayder Ali Jasim, 29, tracked login details for 35 lecturers at the University of South Wales and was able to access the exams. Credit: South Wales Police

A student who made £20,000 by hacking a Welsh university security system and selling exam papers and coursework has been sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Hayder Ali Jasim, 29, from Doncaster, who is also known by the surname Aliayyash, tracked login details for 35 lecturers at the University of South Wales.

He was helped by his housemate Noureldien Eltarki, 30, who was able to find students willing to pay thousands of pounds for them.

The pair were discovered in May 2019 when a maths lecturer noticed some students had included typing errors in their exams which the lecturer had made on his answer sheet.

The university then launched an investigation where it found an IP address linked to a property near to the campus in Treforest.

There the police arrested Jasim at the address on Brook Street and seized £17,000 in cash as well as computer equipment which had significant amounts of prohibited information belonging to the university on it.

University of South Wales

Both Jasim and Ektarki, who studied in the university's engineering and computer science faculty, were found to be living at the address.

The police discovered that five systems had been compromised by the pair, including data consisting of exam papers, coursework, marking and reports.

It found 216 files were downloaded between November 2019 and May 2019 and that the network had been logged onto more than 700 times.

During his interview with police, Eltarki confessed to selling an exam script for as much as £6,500 and other amounts including £3,000, £1,600, and £300, with much of the money going to Jasim, who ran the operation. Jasim pleaded guilty to three counts of obtaining articles by unauthorised access to computers and two counts of committing an act to impair reliability of data in computer.Eltarki from Roath in Cardiff, pleaded guilty to money laundering and transferring criminal property.

In mitigation Jasim's barrister Stephen Thomas said his client, who was born in Iraq, had "acted foolishly" but accepted responsibility for his offending. He added: "He is thoroughly ashamed of himself for his behaving as he did and he realises his behaviour was extremely selfish and wrong."The barrister added that Jasim was now living in the UK as an asylum seeker and would struggle to obtain employment due to his convictions.Susan Ferrier, representing Libya-born Eltarki, said her client had made a "stupid decision" after becoming involved in the operation to pay off a debt but she maintained the defendant had no involvement in procuring the materials.Sentencing, Judge David Wynn Morgan said: "[Jasim], you are a young man of obvious talent and skills, particularly in connection with IT, but you abused those skills."The court asks itself the following questions: were your offences planned and consistent? They certainly were and went on for some time. Were they sophisticated? They were very sophisticated indeed and for a long time you left no trace of what you were doing."Do these series of offences damage the system and reputation of the institution against which you offended? Of course it does. Does it damage public confidence in that institution? Yes it has. What were the costs of remuneration? In the order of £100,000. What was your motive? Financial greed; and the amount of money you obtained was not insignificant, in the order of £20,000."

Jasim was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment and Eltarki was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work and a six-day rehabilitation activity requirement.