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A North Carolina man faces criminal charges after his attempt to expose the insecurity of his local medical facility's wireless network landed him in hot water with the authorities.

Clayton Taylor Dillard, 29, an information security consultant, is accused of breaking into Wake Internal Medicine Consultants' computer system and illegally accessing information of hundreds of patients.

Dillard is charged with one felony count of computer trespass, one felony count of unlawful computer access and one misdemeanor count of computer trespass, according to a report by local TV station WRAL.

After Dillard allegedly broke into the hospital's network he reportedly sent WRAL a letter containing "copies of cheques and insurance forms for patients", accompanied by the note "these guys are a bunch of bozos". He also reportedly contacted patients and insurance companies informing them of the clinic's allegedly lax security.

Investigators say Dillard's motives are irrelevant to their investigation.

"It doesn't matter. He wasn't authorised to do what he did, and what he did was illegal," Sergeant Gary Hinnant, who heads the Cyber Crimes Unit for the Raleigh Police Department, told WRAL.

Members of the FBI's Hi-Tech Task Force are also involved in the investigation, and federal computer crime charges may yet be filed in the case.

Wake Internal Medicine is playing down the incident. Executive Director Steve Lauhoff told WRAL that "actual patient medical records were never accessed" as a result of the security breach to its systems. It says that it has implemented improved security procedures to prevent further intrusions.

Meanwhile, Dillard was released from custody on Tuesday after posting $1000 bail. He is due to return to court at the end of the month.

Dillard's case follows that of 'ethical hacker' Stefan Puffer, who was accused of breaking into the wireless network of a Texan court last year. Puffer was acquitted of all charges against him in February after a jury accepted his arguments that he didn't intentionally cause any damage to Harris County district clerk's wireless computer network. ®

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