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A Houston computer security analyst has been charged with hacking after demonstrating the insecurity of a county courts wireless LAN.

Stefan Puffer, 33, was indicted by a Grand Jury on Wednesday with two counts of fraud for allegedly breaking into Harris County district clerk's wireless computer system. It's believed to be the first case of its kind in the US.

Puffer, who was employed briefly by the county's technology department in 1999, could get five years in jail and faces a $250,000 fine on each count if convicted, the Houston Chronicle reports.

He's accused of accessing the system March 8 in an alleged intrusion that cost the county a reported $5,000 to clean up.

District Clerk Charles Bacarisse told the paper that no confidential information was disclosed but the alleged intrusion eventually resulted in the county closing its wireless LAN only a month after it was activated.

But is the prosecution a case of shooting the messenger?

On March 18, Puffer demonstrated to a county official and a Chronicle reporter how easy it was to gain access to the court's system using only a laptop computer and a wireless LAN card.

Puffer first noticed the problem while scanning for insecure 802.11 networks throughout Houston earlier that month, around the time that the alleged offence took place. ®

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