Fake Trinity student exposed

31 January 2008

A man masquerading as a student of Trinity College has finally been cornered by the College authorities following a string of alleged incidents involving a fake identity, abuse of college facilities, and possible computer hacking.

Tarique Akhtar, who continues to maintain that he is in fact a Trinity graduate student, was apprehended by porters in the college library. He was then ejected from the grounds and warned not to re-enter the college in future.

Sources within the college have told The Cambridge Student (TCS) that Akhtar’s alleged lies were only exposed late last week when, having been asked for college identification, he could only produce another student’s buttery card.

But some Trinity students say that Akhtar had been seen in college on a regular basis for some time before this, making free use of the graduate common room (BA Room) and other college facilities.

“I first saw him at the beginning of this term, but friends who were resident over the vac were already complaining about him using the BA room facilities,” Trinity student Levi Roach told TCS.

“I think he first appeared at the beginning of the vac,” Roach went on.

Initially believing him to be an undergraduate trying to exploit MCR privileges, students’ suspicions were first alerted when they found he had no pigeonhole at the college.

“We became much more suspicious when we couldn’t find his pigeonhole, but had nothing to do with him finally being caught,” Roach said.

Trinity’s Senior Tutor, John Rallison admitted that the college had suffered a security breach on Friday by email, warning students, via email, to be on their guard.

“He is not a member of the College and has been asked not to enter the College again,” the message read.

“If you should encounter this man in Trinity please inform the porters,” it continued.

Rallison also added concerns that Akhtar had hacked in to a student’s email account. “Circumstantial evidence suggests that he may have been making unauthorised use of the computer account of a Trinity student who has already been informed,” the Senior Tutor said.

The fact that Akhtar has a Facebook page on the Cambridge network, which can only be obtained through use of a Hermes webmail address, may appear to support these suspicions.

A blog, entitled ‘Experience Cambridge’ and attributed to a ‘Tarique Akhtar,’ can also be viewed online. In the online journal, the author describes his experiences of studying as a foreign student in the city. He also speaks of a longtime fascination with the idea of hacking.

“Thirteen years and one fateful college application later I ended up at CAMBRIDGE , where hackers of all kinds come to live, learn, and play,” he writes.

Akhtar initially agreed by phone to discuss these issues with TCS, but then failed to turn up to his arranged interview.

His Facebook profile describes how Akhtar was born in India and moved to the U.S. as a small child. He claims to be a Harvard student studying mathematics and functional psychology. But, when contacted by TCS, Harvard officials were unable to find any record of a Tarique Akhtar either as a current student,or former student within the faculty of Maths and Sciences.

Akhtar has also created his own Facebook group campaigning for the “better behaviour” of porters, in which he criticises members of Cambridge staff who ejected him from Trinity.

“I find the behavior of porters hostile if not offensive. They behave like they are some kind of guardian of a great treasure and you are a thief who is determined to steal it.”

The affair has raised concern amongst Trinity students regarding the ease with which members of the public can enter the college grounds during the day. Further questions have been raised about the security of buttery cards as a means of identification. Lost cards cannot be cancelled, only replaced, and continue to allow access to otherwise secured areas of the college.

When contacted by TCS, Senior Tutor John Rallison refused to provide any comment as to whether Akhtar posed an ongoing safety risk to Trinity students.