(Lengthy Post) Advice Needed - Misuse of Information Technology (SF-86 27.3)

Hi all,

I’m in need of guidance, preferably from investigators or adjudicators, on how to proceed with/answer Question 27.3 on the SF-86:

“In the last seven (7) years have you introduced, removed, or used hardware, software, or media in
connection with any information technology system without authorization, when specifically prohibited by rules, procedures, guidelines, or regulations, or attempted any of the above.”


I currently hold a Secret/Tier 3 clearance (DoD), and I have been presented with the opportunity by my employer to upgrade to a TS/Tier 5 clearance and potentially SCI. I completed my SF-86/eQUIP in September before I began my current role, and my final clearance was granted about a month ago.


When I was in college (< 7 years ago at this point), I used a university computer to cheat on two minor online quizzes (same class) by looking up the answers on “study” sites such as Quizlet and Chegg. I realize now how incredibly stupid this was on multiple levels, and I regret my actions. I was not caught, and the chances that this would ever be discovered are virtually zero.

When I originally filled out the SF-86, I answered “no” to all the IT-related questions because I assumed they were referring to things like hacking and illegal activities, but after perusing this site and other similar forums, I am wondering if my cheating fell into the scope of question 27.3 since it was done on a university system, and test answers typed/screenshotted and posted on a website are technically “media.” Granted, there was no university policy that “specifically” prohibited accessing Quizlet and Chegg since they can be used as legitimate study tools, but the policies do state that “any use of the system that violates any University policy is prohibited.” Obviously, academic misconduct would fall under this umbrella.

I want to be honest and due the right thing, and I am also paranoid that not disclosing this will come back to bite me majorly if I ever decide to go for a polygraph. However, I also do not want to make the mistake of reporting information that was not really asked, so I am at a loss at what to do. I am becoming consumed by the guilt and anxiety my actions have caused me.

Here are my questions:

  1. Should I report my unintentional failure to report this on my initial SF-86 to my FSO to mitigate any future concerns that might come up about my honesty or lack of candor?

  2. If I decide to go for the Top Secret clearance (which would require me to “reaffirm” the initial information given on my SF-86), should I change my answer to Question 27.3 to “Yes”?

  3. If it turns out my cheating behavior does fall under the scope of 27.3, and I decide to not go for the TS, am I violating rules/the law by not reporting this incident to my FSO and just waiting until I’m outside the 7-year window for any future investigations?

  4. If I need to bring this information to light, what are the chances my clearance is revoked, suspended, or denied?

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I didn’t have any guidance at all when I filled out the original form; they emailed it to me before I even started. I filled out the questions as best I could. Any feedback or guidance to my situation is greatly appreciated. I want to know if I need to take action, or if I’m just severely overthinking this…

This isn’t something you should report on the SF86. Perhaps bring it up in the event of a polygraph and they ask if you have ever cheated, but I would forget about it. Too minor and long ago to be an issue

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Nobody cares about this. First of all, even if the quiz questions were “media,” within their intended definition, you weren’t the one that removed them. You just accessed them—from a site which, as you point out, is not banned by the university. (If it was, they’d block the IP.)

It’s literally asking about taking proprietary information, such as that of a corporation or government agency, and removing it from their physical custody or distributing it without their knowledge or consent. The quizzes that are on Quizlet are on there because they come from the end of every chapter in every undergraduate textbook.

Lazy professors expect lazy students. Professors know when their quizzes go up on those sites, and yet they still use them.

I think it would be a different story if the university went out of their way to block the IP addresses for those types of sites and you intentionally used a VPN or some other technology to circumvent their technology security policies. In that case, I’d report it.

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In the broadest possible reading of the definition for SF-86 27.3, yes, you “used media in connection with an information technology system when specifically prohibited by rules/regulations”. This question is incredibly broad, and could even be construed to apply to cases where you watching videos on YouTube after a parentally-imposed curfew.

If you want to clear it off your chest, bring it up with the investigator and explain how you could interpret such an absolutely common occurrence as that. Then it’s in their (investigator/adjudicator) court to decide if this matters, but frankly I would be astonished if the investigator even put it down.