Compliance Management, Threat Management, Privacy, Vulnerability Management

Florida private investigator charged with attempting to hack Muslim charity

Timothy Sedlak, a private investigator in Florida, was charged Monday with trying to gain unauthorized access to a charity's computer system allegedly while doing research on whether some nonprofits are “unintentionally” providing financial support to Islamic jihadists.

The charity wasn't identified in a complaint filed against the 42-year-old Sedlak in federal court in the Southern District of New York, but court documents showed that the organization recorded around 390,000 unauthorized attempts from IP addresses associated with the investigator to access its systems during June and July. Those attempts affected workflow and at times prevented employees from accessing their email.

Sedlak, who bills himself on LinkedIn as a private eye with Florida-based Surveillance Associates, LLC, but who does not hold an investigator's license in the state, told authorities he was looking at charities to see if they were funneling funds to Mideast charities that were then taken over by radical forces.

The U.S. Secret Service obtained a search warrant for Sedlak's home and confiscated a number of items, including 30 computers that contained email account information on the unidentified charity's workers and, the complaint said, “a brute force password cracking tool.”

The complaint also noted that “the number of computers” as well as “the manner in which they were networked together is consistent with an attempt to gain unauthorized access to computers” and indicated “a plan to engage in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.”

The complaint noted that Sedlak, who declined to talk about his alleged hacking activities, hoped to sell information gathered on the charities he was researching.

Sedlak was arrested Friday on criminal charges.

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