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The press attaché of a Montana Congressman has been left red faced after "hackers" he was trying to hire to change his lowly college grades published his email exchanges instead.

Todd Shriber, 28, a press officer for US Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, was looking to persuade hackers to break into the systems of Texas Christian University and change his grades. The motive for his illegal actions was apparently to bolster his academic credentials ahead of a possible run for office.

But Shriber hit on the wrong target for his pleas when he contacted security site attrition.org in early August. Instead of entering negotiations with hackers-for-hire he entered into an exchange of emails with security experts "Lyger" and "Jericho" (AKA "Security Curmudgeon").

Despite being warned that what he proposed was a criminal offence Shriber continued with the plan, little realizing he was been taken for a ride. The 22 email exchange culminated in late August with claims by Lyger that the hack that never was had been detected, who advised Shriber to "duck and run if you can". The exchange was published in September.

But it wasn't until last week that it emerged a would-be political candidate had instigated the attack. Confronted by evidence of the assault, Shriber eventually fessed up to Networkworld. "I did something that's greatly out of character for me and it's a mistake that I regret."

Asked why he dreamt up the scheme in the first place, Shriber said "I just got a little too far ahead of myself thinking about things down the road." His school grades were mediocre, he conceded.

Shriber claimed he was beginning to have second thoughts about the hack, although there's no evidence of this in the email exchanges published by attrition.org.

"A solicitation was made but no action was performed. These are people misrepresenting themselves for a laugh."

Scriber's boss failed to see a funny side to his extra-curricular activities and he was fired last Thursday (21 December).

The perpetrators of the sting have little sympathy for their victim, who they point out was attempting to solicit a criminal offence. "You'll notice that we even intentionally redacted his Social Security number and date of birth in one of the e-mails (on the site)," Lyger told Networkworld. "Pretty ironic that he even sent them since we maintain a data-loss database, Web page, and mailing list." ®

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