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Feds Closing in on Super Computer Hacker(s)?

John Markoff and Lowell Bergman have a front-page story in The New York Times today about an ongoing investigation into a series of attacks "on computer systems serving the American military, NASA and research laboratories."

The story says the FBI is looking at a 16-year-old in Uppsala, Sweden, as the possible culprit. The Times says the kid was charged in March with breaking into university computers in his hometown, and that "investigators in the American break-ins ultimately traced the intrusions back to the Uppsala university network."

Markoff and Bergman say the attacks are ongoing, but that they date back about one year. The story mentions fairly high up in the piece that part of the investigation has to do with news I broke last April about hackers infiltrating advanced computing networks at more than 20 universities and research institutions nationwide. In that attack, the hackers gained access to a number of high-speed computing networks used by the U.S. military and NASA, among others. The breaches included break-ins at various portions of the TeraGrid, a network of computers funded by the National Science Foundation for use on intensive data-crunching projects.

The Times story does a nice job of linking several separate and previously reported incidents to a hacker who goes by the name "Stakkato." In addition to the TeraGrid angle, the Times piece draws threads through other hacks, including a break-in at Internet router giant Cisco Systems and an untold number of digital intrusions at NASA.

It looks like Markoff again is showcasing his impressive resources within the hacker and law enforcement communities. I especially like the anecdote about how the hacker supposedly erased the hard drive of one of his victims because she annoyed him.

Astute readers of hacker history will recall Markoff's part in the investigation, arrest and 4-year imprisonment of legendary ex-hacker Kevin Mitnick. Some people say Markoff crossed the line from reporting that story to becoming part of it by actually helping investigators apprehend Mitnick. According to a segment of "Takedown," a controversial book he co-authored about the Mitnick investigation, Markoff sat in a van with a telephone company worker and listened in on an FBI wiretap of Mitnick's phone conversations. Markoff's coverage of the investigation later netted him a share in a movie deal based on the book.

By Brian Krebs  |  May 10, 2005; 1:32 PM ET
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i think this is who is involved ! just my thoughts...

this is a big fraud ring i am investigating. this is bigger than anyone can imagine.. russian mafia has merged with armenian gang and merged with the mexican mafia arellano brothers. who could be suppling terroist with russian missels etc.

Criminals apprehended due to spelling error By Damon MarturionNew Business News Staff Writer LOS ANGELES - How do you spell sergeant? A group of bumbling, would-be gold thieves didn't know, and that led to their downfall. The simple spelling error -- the alleged villains spelt it "sargent" -- led federal agents this week to arrest four men who allegedly posed as U.S. military personnel and tried to get a precious metals firm to ship gold products to a phony NASA address, officials said Thursday. Anthony Macaluso, Alexander Drabkin, Daniel Patterson and Michael Itaev, were charged Wednesday in a Los Angeles federal court with mail fraud, officials said. They were also accused of posing as employees of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., to obtain industrial gold products from Boston-based Stern-Leach Co. The men were in custody in Los Angeles while prosecutors sought to move them to Boston for a trial. If convicted, each could face up to five years in prison plus three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, officials said. A Department of Defense spokesman confirmed the arrests on Thursday. Agents from the Department of Defense arrested the suspects Tuesday after an elaborate sting operation sparked by a spelling error and a hunch. According to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times and published in Thursday's editions, Patterson posed as a military officer named "Sargent" Michael Jeffries working in San Diego who sought to have gold parts delivered to a "neutron accelerator project" located at a non-existent JPL office. Officials at the real JPL, which is at a different address in Pasadena, said they had no knowledge of the scheme. After Patterson called a Stern-Leach representative several weeks ago, order forms were sent by fax and express mail to the phony JPL office in east Pasadena for 120 sheets of gold, large amounts of 12- and 14-gauge gold wire and 80 ounces of gold "shot," according to the Times. However the contact on the order form was listed as "Sargent" Michael Jeffries, a spelling error which caused company employees to pause. Patterson also asked that the gold be shipped via the courier company UPS, rather than by armored car, which seemed highly unusual. Company officials reported the incident to the FBI which referred the case to the Department of Defense. After federal agents determined that there was no Sgt. Jeffries listed in San Diego and that faxes sent from Patterson to Stern-Leach originated from a Pasadena Mail Boxes Etc. store, they wiretapped the phone lines of the phony JPL office and eventually made the arrests.

Posted by: chandler | May 11, 2005 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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