FBI treats ‘Good Samaritan’ as public enemy

Point out a security flaw and face a hacking felony

A 'Good Samaritan' who alerted a firm about a serious security flaw on their Web site has become the subject of a criminal investigation.

Linuxfreak reports that Brian West, a 24-year-old support worker with Oklahoma-based ISP Cwis, came across a security problem with the Poteau Daily News Web site during the course of helping a colleague prepare an ad for the site.

While using Microsoft FrontPage, West discovered the site required no authentication to edit any file on its servers. Naturally concerned, he contacted the newspaper.

However, instead of thanking West for his help, the editor-in-chief of the paper, Wally Burchett, decided to tape West's explanation of the problem and report him to the police.

That's when the Feds got involved. While officers posing as potential customers visited West's offices, others, pretending to be Poteau Daily News employees, got him to run through the security problem on the paper's server.

As soon as he did that another FBI agent arrived on the scene and served a warrant on the understandably shocked West, who neither damaged or defaced the site, Linuxfreak reports. Of course, we haven't heard the other side of the story here, but it all seems very fishy to us.

West troubles began in February 2000 but the case against him continues to grind on.

The FBI wants him to accept a felony conviction and five years' probation. West continues to maintain his innocence. He is trying to raise funds to pay for a lawyer in preparation Grand Jury hearing on 5 September. ®

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