The two 19-year-olds from Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein, were rumbled when teachers at their grammar school figured out earlier this year that their grades on the computer and those on paper did not match, local paper the Lübecker Nachrichten reported on Friday.
School authorities then lodged a criminal complaint against the university-hopefuls for hacking and data manipulation – the first case of its kind in the state. If they are found guilty they could face charges of hacking and data manipulation and may even have to spend time behind bars.
Ironically, the unnamed pair are thought to have picked up inside information when working with teachers to improve the school's internal computer network – with the aim to make the system more user-friendly.
Rüdiger Bleich, head teacher at the Johanneum grammar school was left baffled, telling the Lübecker Nachrichten that the two students had in any case scored highly, making the attempted cheat pointless.
“They clearly wanted to change their grades,” said Bleich. “But at no point would they have been able to access the central database.”
State data protection expert Thilo Weichert warned the Ministry for Education in 2011 about holes in school computer systems, but little was done to heed his concern.
He told the Lübecker Nachrichten that it would not be too difficult for pupils to obtain an administration log-in and gain access to private data inside their school's system.
But despite the recent breach, head teacher Bleich said he felt students would not have any business looking in the internal network, and that efforts to make the system more accessible would continue as “the trust is there.”