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NYC Computer Hacking Indictment May 3, 2012

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Jeremy Hammond,27-was named in an indictment in Manhattan in federal court.  Hammond joins four other defendants in the computer hacking case.  Prosecutors claim that the defendants allegedly hacked into government agencies and companies world-wide.

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Bergen County Attempted Sexual Assault of a Minor Attorney – Charges Continue to be Filed March 28, 2011

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Bergen County Attempted Sexual Assault of a Minor Attorney

With offices in Clifton, New Jersey, our attorneys see a lot of work out of Bergen County.  As computer crime attorneys, we have represented clients charged with possession of child pornography and attempted sexual assault of a minor.  So called “traveler cases” which are named after the suspect’s actions of traveling to meet an alleged minor for sex, were made famous in the Dateline NBC series, “to catch a predator”.  While these cases can be filed anywhere in New Jersey, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office clearly seems to be the leader in such prosecutions.

I have successfully handled these matters including the case of a Middlesex County politician charged in a rather high-profile bust a few years ago.  If you are charged with these crimes, call us anytime to discuss the case.  An example of one of the more recent arrests are below.  There have been even more recent arrests, but this office does not comment on existing or potential clients unless the case is otherwise in the news.

A 51-year-old Ship Bottom man charged with the attempted sexual assault of a minor has been released from the Bergen County Jail. Walter J. Domanski Jr., arrested Dec. 3 in a sting operation in Bergen County, posted $185,000 bail on March 18, 2011.  Domanski is the national director of the Exercise Tiger National Foundation, is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and a longtime lifeguard on Long Beach Island.  He was also charged with attempted endangering the welfare of a minor.  Law enforcement said that Domanski arranged a meeting between himself and a minor — actually undercover law enforcement officers — in Bergen County, to have sex.  He was later arrested after driving to a location in Bergen County.

Bergen County Computer Crime Lawyers

FBI raids home of “fashion-obsessed” community college student/hacker December 21, 2010

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Ross Ulrich, a 22-year-old “fashion-obsessed” community college student from Ohio had his home raided by the FBI after he downloaded more than 1,100 files from a Condé Nast server last summer.  He told the Smoking Gun that federal agents executed a search warrant at his parents’ Columbus home earlier this year, but have yet to charge him with a crime.  There is no word on whether he has an attorney yet.  If he does, he is probably not listening to his/her advice as he is clearly talking to the press.

Ulrich said that he downloaded the images so he could be the first to post them online. He said he did not pay for access to the sites. Condé Nast filed a copyright lawsuit against the user of an IP address that was eventually tied to him .  He eventually agreed to pay Condé Nast $12,500 to settle the copyright claim.  He also admitted to accessing a Warner Bros. server holding images and clips from a variety of movies in production.  Warner Bros. filed a similar, federal lawsuit last year citing the same IP address, though Ulrich said he believes that they had decided not to further pursue its civil action, which sounds like an odd statement.  Either the suit is active or its not. 

Sounds like a really strange computer hacking case where he really didn’t have any sinister motivation.  Just kind of an odd guy.  Kinda hard to get a jury to get worked up over that so criminal charges may never be filed.

Story is here.

New Jersey Computer Crime Lawyers   

FBI, Slovenian and Spanish Police Arrests Mariposa Botnet Creator, Operators July 28, 2010

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The FBI, in partnership with the Slovenian Criminal Police and the Spanish Guardia Civil, announced today significant developments in a two-year investigation of the creator and operators of the Mariposa Botnet. A botnet is a network of remote-controlled compromised computers.  The Mariposa Botnet was built with a computer virus known as “Butterfly Bot” and was used to steal passwords for websites and financial institutions. It stole computer users’ credit card and bank account information, launched denial of service attacks, and spread viruses. Industry experts estimated the Mariposa Botnet may have infected as many as 8 million to 12 million computers.

In February, the Spanish Guardia Civil arrested three suspected Mariposa Botnet operators: “Netkairo,” “Jonyloleante,” and “Ostiator,” aka Florencio Carro Ruiz, Jonathan Pazos Rivera, and Juan Jose Bellido Rios. These individuals are being prosecuted in Spain for computer crimes.  Last week, the Slovenian Criminal Police identified and arrested the Mariposa Botnet’s suspected creator, a 23-year-old Slovenian citizen known as “Iserdo.” The work of the Slovenian and Spanish authorities was integral to this investigation.

In a statement, Slovenian Minister of the Interior Katarina Kresal and Director General Janko Gorsek, Slovenian Criminal Police, said: “We are glad to cooperate with the United States; the FBI’s assistance is invaluable and represents professional affirmation of our force. This case shows that cyber crime issues call for international police cooperation that shouldn’t be hindered by geographical borders. The FBI has demonstrated a high level of collaboration in which our countries were equal partners, which was crucial for the success of the investigation and reducing the threat on a global level. This partnership serves as a solid basis for future cooperation.”

Maj. Juan Salom, commander of the Guardia Civil’s Cyber Crime Division, noted: “The Mariposa case showed how the coordinated and joint actions of different international police forces, along with the efforts of the Internet security industry, have been able to face the global threat of cyber crime,” he said. “The cyber kingpins know that they are not invincible anymore because the global efforts of the FBI, Slovenian Criminal Police, and Spanish Guardia Civil have shown that it doesn’t matter where or how they try to hide, they will be located and prosecuted.”

From 2008 to 2010, the Slovenian citizen created “Butterfly Bot” and sold it to other criminals worldwide. In turn, these criminals developed networks of infected computers—botnets—and the Mariposa variety from Spain was the most notorious and largest. In addition to selling the Butterfly Bot program, the Slovenian citizen developed customized versions for certain customers and created and sold plug-ins (add-ons) to augment the botnet’s features and functionality.

This case is significant because it targeted not only the operators of the botnet but also the creator of the malicious software that was used to build and operate it. The success of this investigation was made possible because of the skill, professionalism, and commitment of the Slovenian Criminal Police’s Cyber Crime Division and the Spanish Guardia Civil’s Computer Crimes Group.

Bernard Madoff “arrest net” widens with more arrests November 13, 2009

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Thought the Bernie Madoff saga was over?  Think again.  The Government will not pack up shop with Madoff’s plea and sentencing.  They will continue to arrest and prosecute just about anyone who can be connected to Madoff’s ponzi scheme. 

The latest arrests are for two former computer programmers for Bernard Madoff’s investment firm on charges they helped cover up his massive fraud for more than 15 years.  Jerome O’Hara and George Perez are charged with  conspiracy, falsifying books and records of a broker-dealer, and falsifying books and records of an investment adviser.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has alleged that they provided technical support to produce false documents and trading records.

Of course, the Government will have to prove that these men shared Madoff’s intent which may be very difficult.  However, the fact that these men are even associated with Madoff will make it very difficult for the defense.  In my opinion, this case turns on whether or not these men are just associated with Madoff or if there is some actual evidence such as cooperating witnesses, documents or emails that show the conspiracy. 

The amount they were paid may impact the case as well since if they were over paid, then the extra compensation will make it more likely that they were in on it.  If their salary was normal, then it will be less likely that they risked criminal prosecution with no “skin in the game”. 

Story is here.

Hackers indicted in bot-for-sale scheme and DDOS attacks September 15, 2009

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Distributed Denial of Service attacks (or DDOS attacks) are nothing new.  But this case is interesting because it is alleged that these hackers allegedly tried to sell their software.  That aspect of it is rare as far as I know and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out.  As a defense attorney, you can argue that your client is just being a stupid young person by engaging in this behavior (assuming you are focused more on mitigation then winning the case).  However, when profit is the motive, the mitigation arguments kinda go out the window.

DALLAS—Two men, Thomas James Frederick Smith and David Anthony Edwards have been charged in a federal indictment with conspiring to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer and commit computer fraud. Edwards, of Mesquite, Texas, and Smith, most recently of Parris Island, South Carolina, have both entered not guilty pleas and are on pre-trial release.  Trial has been set for November 16, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle.

The indictment alleges that from summer 2004 through October 2006, Smith, a/k/a “Zoot,” “TJ,” and “kingsmith007,” and Edwards, a/k/a “Davus,” conspired together to cause the transmission of a program, information, code, or command, by using an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) network, to cause damage to a protected computer.  An “bot,” is a program running on an IRC client that responds automatically to commands that are sent to it through the IRC server.  An IRC “botnet” is a large number of computers infected with bots.      

Basically, Smith and Edwards allegedly searched the Internet for vulnerable computers, and once a vulnerable computer was hacked into, they planted a malicious program on it.  That malicious program code caused all the compromised computers to login to an IRC chat room.  Once the compromised computers were logged into the IRC chat room, Smith and Edwards remotely controlled the behavior of the compromised computers, such as causing all of the compromised computers to simultaneously participate in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack.  Smith and Edwards also accessed, without authorization, websites and either defaced the site, or in the case of one webhost server, “published” its client database.

In trying to sell the bot to a potential botnet purchaser, Smith demonstrated the partial capabilities of the bot to the potential purchaser by causing a portion of the botnet to engage in a DDOS by flooding an IP address at ThePlanet.com, an internet-hosting company in Dallas.

I would like to know more about Edwards’ knowledge of the proposed sale.  If he wasn’t really involved, than he may have a better chance of working out a great plea if he flips on Smith.  Looking at the chat records will be key.

NJ man allegedly steals domain name and sells it to NBA player August 3, 2009

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Daniel Goncalves of Union Township, New Jersey is charged with hacking into the online account belonging to owner of the P2P.com domain name. He allegedly then shifted ownership to himself and resold the Web site address on eBay to Los Angeles Clippers power forward Mark Madsen.  The price was allegedly $100,000.

He faces felony charges of theft by unlawful taking or deception, identity theft, and computer theft.  Even if he doesn’t have a record, prison time is mandatory if convicted.  The initial offer will be either a 5 or 3 flat. 

Hopefully, he gets a good attorney that actually knows how to turn on a computer.  It sounds like a very interesting case with some unique defense issues.  Story is here.

Ex-politician avoids serious prison term in computer crime case May 21, 2009

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This was a rather high profile case that I just finished up last week.  Due  to my client’s position as a politician at the time of his arrest, this incident was featured in a ton of news articles.  However, I was able to keep the sentencing out of the news for the most part so I’m going to be vague on the details.  Other than a brief mention on television, there was nothing in print. 

Basically, my client was charged with very serious offenses that could have landed him in prison if convicted.  He confessed before he hired me and the evidence against him was strong.  I worked the case out with prosecutor for a plea to lesser charges with probation and 364 days of county jail time.  I’ve had these cases before and I have been able to get that 364 down to zero but it isn’t easy to do that.

I filed a sentencing brief that the prosecutor viewed as so impressive, that he agreed to slash his recommendation in half.  So,  the new recommendation to the court was 180 days in jail and not 364.  This is the first time I have seen the State do this.  Of course, I still pushed for zero days.

However, when I got to court, the whole game changed.  This judge does not like these cases and there was another defendant with the very same charges. His attorney also asked for no jail time but the judge ripped him up pretty good.  I the end, he got the full 364.  The prosecutor told me that he knows this judge and he rarely departs from the 364 when these deals are made.

Great huh?  Looked like my guy was getting the 364 and not even the 180 that the State was recommending now.  I spent about a half hour arguing with the judge, focusing him on my client and his situation, his service to the community and the circumstances of the case.  The judge thanked me for my zealous advocacy of my client  which was important because he did not thank the previous attorney. 

In the end, the judge gave my guy 120 days in jail.  Would I have liked nothing?  Of course!  However, I can’t see how I could have done anything else with this case.  Of the 120, my guy will probably do about half of that.  Even better, the judge granted my application to delay his entry to jail so that he can get his life together.  The last guy went right out in cuffs.

While my client was happy, especially after seeing what happened to the last guy, I had a prospective client that was sitting in the audience watching me as well.  She was so impressed with me that she fired her previous attorney and has since hired me.  Thus, I had a good day in court.

Computer Engineer to stand trial for hacking San Francisco December 27, 2008

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I have been studying computer crime for about 18 years in one way or the other.  This is the type of case that I talked about many years ago that other people couldn’t even imagine.  I don’t even think it was anything that special.  Others who really studied computer crime and/or technology made the same type of predictions.  However, most people in the early to mid 90’s didn’t even have a computer in their house, so it was hard for them to understand these types of scenarios.

Terry Childs created and ran FiberWAN which networks the computers of San Francisco and handles 60 percent of the city’s information.   He is accused of locking out his bosses from the system and setting up the network to fail during a scheduled shutdown.  The City alleges that they had to spend over a million dollars to fix and assess the vulnerability of the network.  He remains in jail with a $5 million dollar bail.

This is an amazing case for so many reasons.  First, he gave the correct passwords after being in jail for 8 days….to Mayor Gavin Newsom!  I guess the Mayor is a witness now.  Also, the trial would have to be moved.  How could he possibly get a fair trial in that city?

More importantly, how does either side take this case to trial?  Issue one is motive.  How are you going to ask the jury to convict this guy?  What did he really do here?  Was anyone actually harmed or put at risk or is this a civil issue?  He has no criminal record and no motive.  The amount of witnesses and the complex and technical testimony will be tough for the Prosecutor to handle.

I hope the defense realizes that Childs has to be one of their best consultants/experts.  I refer to this type of client as an “expert client”.  He can and should testify (assuming there is no really damaging motive evidence I don’t know about).  He can help the lawyers explain everything about this network, what he did, why, etc.

The problem they have is that the Prosecutor will be out for blood because this case will be extremely political.  So the chances of getting a good deal will be slim at best.  On the other hand. Childs can help the lawyers know what to ask for in terms of discovery.  I am sure there is some sensitive information that the city will not want to part with.  The defense will need to find a reason for this information to be necessary (i.e. relevant) to their case.  This includes everything about the network, the information on it, internal policies, dirt on everyone involved, etc. 

In other words, the defense needs to make the Prosecutor wish they worked out a quiet, easy resolution to the case in the beginning.  It is the best strategy at this point for numerous reasons.  First, if you can scare the Prosecutor out of going to trial and work out a great deal for your client, you’ve won. 

Second, if that doesn’t work, you need to make the trial so drawn out and complex that the jury’s head will spin.  This will take the Prosecutor off message because they will be so busy defending everything else, that there will less time spent on the actual allegations against Childs.

His lawyers seem like they have a good idea as to where they are going.  I just hope they keep going in that direction .  The story indicates that they are making Childs out to be the only one that could save the city from his supervisors and fellow employees who would abuse the network.  That is a great theme but you better have the evidence to back it up!  

The reason I started studying computer crime all those years ago was because I not only knew there would be cases like this, but I knew that I could win them.  While I handle (and win) white collar crime and computer crime cases, there are only so many clients in Terry Child’s position.  While I’ve been waiting for many years, it seems like I won’t have to be waiting too much longer huh? 

Here is the story.

Neil Cohen, former Assemblyman indicted for child pornography charges December 17, 2008

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As an attorney that represents a former politician on charges that are somewhat related, I’ve been watching this case with interest.  Neil Cohen is a former New Jersey Assemblyman who allegedly uses his office computer to view child pornography.  He also allegedly printed out at least one image which results in a second degree distribution charge.  Since he did this with his work computer, he is also facing a second degree official misconduct charge.  Luckily, my client alleged actions took place on his own time so he doesn’t have the OM charge.

I’m sure there were plea negotiations for the past several months which probably had a hand in delaying the indictment.  It is too bad that there are the 2nd degree child porn charges because his attorney could have then heavily litigated the OM charge which has been over used in the last several years.  Now, his attorney has to deal with the OM charge and the other charges.  He will lose just about everything if he is convicted of all charges.  The sentence would be prison, Megan’s law and parole supervision for life. 

A good plea would be plea to the OM charge, and drop the other child porn charges to 4th degree possession so he can avoid parole supervision for life.   The prison term would be a 5 flat but a good sentencing package could get that down to a 3 flat.   He would be out within 9 months or earlier if he got ISP.

Click here for the press release and indictment.