Student owns up to Texas Uni cyber-heist
Lone cracker theory
A University of Texas student has been charged with hacking offences following a computer break-in at the university earlier this month that lead to the disclosure of 55,200 past and present University of Texas faculty members and students.
Christopher Andrew Phillips, 20, who was charged last week with "unauthorised access to a protected computer and using the Social Security number of another person to commit a federal offence", turned himself over to the authorities (the US Secret Service) last Friday, University newspaper The Daily Texan reports.
The paper reports that Phillips, a student of natural sciences at the university, told investigators that he acted alone and without intent to pass sensitive social security on to third parties. This admission is likely to subdue, though not entirely dissipate, fears that the stolen social security might be used in identity theft.
Investigators believe Phillips wrote a program to access a database, called TXClass, used to track employee training. With access to this database, Phillips was then able to fetch data off a more sensitive database containing social security numbers, it is claimed.
Phillips has been released on bail with restrictions limiting his access to computers. Charges against Phillips follow a March 5 Secret Service raid on his Austin residence where a computer containing a list of purloined social security numbers was recovered.
Johnny Sutton, US attorney for western Texas, told a news conference yesterday: "The main message today is that these cases will be taken seriously, these cases will be prosecuted, and this case will be prosecuted vigorously."
The Washington Post quotes Sutton as saying Phillips faces a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 fine if convicted. ®
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