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An Oregon man faces up to to 20 years in prison for allegedly selling modding tools that allowed his customers to swipe high-speed internet access without paying.

The US attorney's office for Massachusetts revealed the arrest yesterday, when charges were unsealed. The federal authorities and the FBI said they had nabbed 26 year old Ryan Harris, of San Diego, California and Redmond Oregon, on a six count indictment for "conspiracy, computer intrusion, and wire fraud".

The authorities allege Harris, and his company, TCNISO, "developed and distributed products that allowed users to modify their cable modems and obtain internet access without paying for it".

The operation developed and sold hardware and software tools which the authorities say enable buyers to soup up their cable modems, so they could pass themselves off as "legitimate, paying subscribers" and get premium high-speed access without paying.

By the sounds of it, this was no fly by night operation, with Harris and his firm offering customer support through the TCNISO website, "to assist customers in their cable modem hacking activities."

It seems that Harris and his firm were rumbled when the feds last year charged "a male juvenile from Massachusetts, known by the online moniker 'DShocker'" with computer intrusion, interstate threats and wire fraud.

According to Ars Technica, Harris' firm essentially sold unlocked modems, together with firmware and details on how to manipulate the device. Harris may well argue that there were perfectly legitimate uses for this. But the authorities will no doubt argue that his customers had one key aim in buying his kit - ripping off cable providers.

As well as a 20 year prison sentence if found guilty, Ryan could also face fines of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. ®

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