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Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Hacker Sentenced Cinched by Searches

 

According to ZDNet, something interesting has occurred. A hacker taping into wireless internet connections and disrupting service has been sentenced to 15 months in prison, nearly $20,000 in restitution, and 3 years of supervised released. What makes this story interesting is the actual nail in his coffin so to speak.

Mathew Schuster, a computer technician for Alpha Computer Services was fired from his position in May of 2003. At that time his home account had also been terminated. In order to remain online Schuster started using the access information which belonged to other Alpha customers, such as their MAC address authentication.

While in the system, Schuster was also blamed for denial of service attacks against Alpha and other disruptions caused to the system during his use. What helped to convict him? While hacked into the system Schuster had used Google to query a number of incriminating phrases such as “how to broadcast interference over wifi 2.4 GHZ”, “wireless networks 2.4 interference” and “interference over wifi 2.4 GHZ”. These Google searches were brought to life by the FBI and seriously hurt Schuster’s case.

How did these searches surface? The court documents are ambiguous, but there are a number of ways this could have occurred. The searches may have been noted in Schuster’s browser history and cache, the monitoring of the connection by an Alpha employee, or by a subpoena to Google for searches tided to his IP or cookies.

There has been confirmation that Google has the capability to provide search terms for a provided Internet address or cookie. This case is also not the first time that Google search terms have appeared in a criminal case. In 2005, before his wife was killed, a defendant was noted searching for phrases in Google which included the key words “neck”, “snap”, “break” and “hold” – he was found guilty.


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