Threat Management, Threat Management

Hacker charged for marketing systems to steal bandwidth

A federal indictment was unsealed Monday in Boston charging a hacker with selling hardware and software designed to steal internet bandwidth.

The defendant, Ryan Harris, 26, ran TCNISO, a San Diego company that sold products designed to modify cable modems so that users could access ISP networks without authorization “to obtain internet service without making the required payment,” according to the indictment.

During the past six years, Harris was able to glean $1 million from the business before the feds caught up with him, documents showed.

The TCNISO products enabled users to disguise their cable modem by mimicking the MAC address of the modem of a paying internet subscriber. They also allowed users to obtain faster, or "uncapped," internet service without paying the premiums charged by the ISP, using “configuration files that the ISP would otherwise only provide to a legitimate subscriber paying for premium access,” according to the indictment.

The company sold the software as standalone products and preloaded onto cable modems, according to the indictment.

Harris also marketed a book titled "Hacking the Cable Modem," written under his alias, DerEngel.

Harris was released without bail on condition that he surrenders his passport and that he promises to appear in court as directed, Christina Sterling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Boston, told Tuesday.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 18, though prosecutors are seeking a continuance into December, she said.

If convicted, Harris faces up to 20 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution on each of the six counts with which he is charged.

Harris could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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