Feeds

US wardriver pleads guilty to Wi-Fi hacks

Hit Detroit hardware store

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

In a rare wireless hacking conviction, a Michigan man entered a guilty plea last Friday in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina for his role in a scheme to steal credit card numbers from the Lowe's chain of home improvement stores by taking advantage of an unsecured Wi-Fi network at a store in suburban Detroit.

Brian Salcedo, 21, faces an a unusually harsh 12 to 15 year prison term under federal sentencing guidelines, based largely on a stipulation that the potential losses in the scheme exceeded $2.5m. But Salcedo has agreed to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of one or more other suspects, making him eligible for a sentence below the guideline range.

One of Salcedo's two codefendants, 20-year-old Adam Botbyl, is scheduled to plead guilty Monday, assistant U.S. attorney Matthew Martins confirmed. Botbyl faces 41 to 51 months in prison, but also has a cooperation deal with the prosecutors, according to court filings. The remaining defendant, 23-year-old Paul Timmins, is scheduled for arraignment on 28 June.

In 2000, as a juvenile, Salcedo was one of the first to be charged under Michigan's state computer crime law, for allegedly hacking a local ISP.

According to statements provided by Timmins and Botbyl following their arrest, as recounted in an FBI affidavit filed in the case, the pair first stumbled across an unsecured wireless network at the Southfield, Michigan Lowe's last spring, while "driving around with laptop computers looking for wireless Internet connections," i.e., wardriving. The two said they did nothing malicious with the network at that time.

It was six months later that Botbyl and his friend Salcedo hatched a plan to use the network to steal credit card numbers from the hardware chain, according to the affidavit.

FBI Stakeout

The hackers used the wireless network to route through Lowe's corporate data center in North Carolina and connect to the local networks at stores in Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, South Dakota, Florida, and two stores in California. At two of the stores - in Long Beach, California and Gainseville, Florida - they modified a proprietary piece of software called "tcpcredit" that Lowe's uses to process credit card transactions, building in a virtual wiretap that would store customer's credit card numbers where the hackers could retrieve them later.

At some point, Lowe's network administrators and security personnel detected and began monitoring the intrusions, and called in the FBI. In November, a Bureau surveillance team staked out the Southfield Lowe's parking lot, and spotted a white Grand Prix with suspicious antennas and two young men sitting inside, one of them typing on a laptop from the passenger seat, according to court documents. The car was registered to Botbyl.

After 20 minutes, the pair quit for the night, and the FBI followed them to a Little Ceasar's pizza restaurant, then to a local multiplex. While the hackers took in a film, Lowe's network security team poured over log files and found the bugged program, which had collected only six credit card numbers.

FBI agents initially identified Timmins as Botbyl's as the passenger in the car, apparently mistakenly, and both men were arrested on 10 November. Under questioning, Botbyl and Timmins pointed the finger at Salcedo. Timmins had allegedly provided the two hackers with an 802.11b card, and had knowledge of what his associates were up to.

Botbyl and Timmins, known online as "noweb4u" and "itszer0" respectively, are part of the Michigan 2600 hacker scene - an informal collection of technology aficionados.

The Lowe's Wi-Fi system was installed to allow scanners and telephones to connect to the store's network without the burden of cables, according to the indictment.

Copyright © 2004, 0

Related stories

Michigan Wi-Fi hackers try to steal credit card details
Wireless hacking bust in Michigan
Wi-Fi hacker caught downloading child porn

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.