Students at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Matunga have used their knowledge of chemistry to hack the institute’s biometric attendance system.
Around 200 students at the institute used small layers of a widely-used resin adhesive and pressed their thumbs against them, embossing them with their fingerprints. These films were then used by their friends to mark attendance for their absent friends.
Suspecting foul play in attendance records, the authorities asked the students to come clean, threatening them with ‘severe action’ if they were found to be engaging in the practise. “There are students who have registered attendance despite not being in class. We urge you to come forward... and let us know the number of times you have unfairly marked your attendance. We have close circuit television (CCTV) camera recordings of all such activities,” read a notice from the ICT authorities.
After the notice was issued, a number of students admitted to the forgery. The institute has decided to punish them by reducing their credit grades by two points.
“Even though the attendance records showed otherwise, we suspected that the students were not attending classes because they performed poorly in their exams. Then we came to know that they used polymer films to mark their attendance,” said GD Yadav, vice-chancellor, ICT.
He added that the students were forced to come clean as the lectures at ICT are video-recorded, allowing authorities to keep a track of students. Authorities and teachers noticed thedisparity between actual attendance and the biometric records owing to small size of classrooms , said a source.
This incident is likely to alarm professional colleges across Maharashtra who have recently been asked to use biometric system to record attendance by the state government.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has also asked schools to install such devices.
The biometric system at ICT is connected to a software through which students’ parents can also access academic records. The vice-chancellor said that ICT would use iris scanners instead of fingerprint scanners for a fool-proof attendance system.
But not all academicians think that installing an expensive high-tech attendance systems is the right way to push students to attend lectures.
“Do we want to the students to attend the classes for the knowledge they will get or for the fear of attendance records? I don’t keep a record of attendance in my class. Instead, I use other techniques such as conducting surprise quizes to ensure that students are present,” said Soumyo Mukherjee, dean, academic affairs at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B), which also uses a biometric attendance system.