EIT reinforces iRattler security

Florida A&M will be making changes to iRattler after a recent computer hacking scheme.

According to FAMU Police Chief Terence Calloway, the university is taking a more secure approach to its IT infrastructure.

Michael James, interim vice president of information technology and chief information officer, said FAMU is making changes in the division of enterprise information technology.

“EIT, in conjunction with several of the enrollment services offices, implemented several changes to procedures and functionality in iRattler pertaining to how sensitive information is updated, requested and stored in the system,” James said. “Several of these changes require students to enter additional information such as a personal identification number prior to accessing certain pages.”

Changes were made after Christopher Wright, a Fort Lauderdale resident, was sentenced late October to two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft and access device fraud for a scheme to steal financial aid from FAMU students.

According to a news release from the U. S. Department of Justice, while students attended FAMU in 2010, Wright and his co-defendants, Carliss Pereira, 22, of Tallahassee, and Carl Coutard, 22, of Miami Shores, accessed the financial aid accounts of other students in the iRattler computer system.

In announcing the sentence imposed by the court, United States Attorney Pamela Marsh said the sentencing will make an example of the defendants.

Marsh said the sentencing “sends a clear message that engaging in this type of criminal conduct will have serious consequences, including the real possibility of a felony conviction and a prison term.”

“The defendants in this case quite literally breached the security of their university in an effort to victimize their fellow students,” she said.

Marsh expressed her gratitude to those whose investigative work resulted in these prosecutions.

The defendants obtained the usernames, passwords and other personal information of students by using discarded paperwork in trash bins near the FAMU computer help desk, gathering information from public sources on the Internet and by coaxing FAMU employees and students into providing this information.

The information was used to log on to the financial aid accounts of students who were scheduled to receive financial aid refunds. The defendants then changed the bank account and routed numbers in the victims’ financial aid accounts to divert the victims’ financial aid refunds to pre-paid debit cards held by the defendants.

Pereira and Coutard pleaded guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft charges earlier this year.

Coutard was sentenced to six months of home detention, six months of community confinement and 80 hours of community service as conditions of a three-year term of supervised release.

Pereira was sentenced to a three-year term of supervised release with conditions that he serves four months of home detention and two months of community confinement, performs 80 hours of community service and pays $3,983 in restitution to FAMU.

James said that EIT will continue to work cooperatively with the university’s office of public safety, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other local, state and national agencies to insure that individuals who commit this type of crime are prosecuted.

“This particular security incident has not occurred before,” James said. “There have been other attempts at identity theft. However, they employed different methods. It should be noted that Florida A&M University takes this and related matters seriously and continuously evaluates procedures and processes to minimize any potential security incidents.”

Information regarding Pereira’s restitution payments and student expulsion was declined due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, where student records are protected from disclosure.
In all but a few cases, FAMU was able to reverse the fraudulent transfers.