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FBI Arrests Hacker Who Hacked No One

Posted on April 15th, 2017 at 23:14 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment



Huddleston’s first thought was that somebody had crashed their car and needed to use his phone. But when he opened the door, he was met by about two dozen serious-looking men and women, some in bulletproof vests, holding handguns at the ready, one shouldering an assault rifle, another carrying a battering ram. He was accustomed to seeing uniformed sheriff’s deputies in his neighborhood—drugs, he assumed—but most of these cops wore suits. More suits than he’d ever seen in one place.

The visitors were from the FBI, and after a 90-minute search of his house, they left with his computers, only to return two months later with handcuffs. Now free on bond, Huddleston, 26, is scheduled to appear in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia on Friday for arraignment on federal charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusions.

Huddleston, though, isn’t a hacker. He’s the author of a remote administration tool, or RAT, called NanoCore that happens to be popular with hackers. NanoCore has been linked to intrusions in at least 10 countries, including an attack on Middle Eastern energy firms in 2015, and a massive phishing campaign last August in which the perpetrators posed as major oil and gas company. As Huddleston sees it, he’s a victim himself—hackers have been pirating his program for years and using it to commit crimes. But to the Justice Department, Huddleston is an accomplice to a spree of felonies.

Depending on whose view prevails, Huddleston could face prison time and lose his home, in a case that raises a novel question: when is a programmer criminally responsible for the actions of his users? “Everybody seems to acknowledge that this software product had a legitimate purpose,” says Travis Morrissey, a lawyer in Hot Springs who represented Huddleston at his bail hearing. “It’s like saying that if someone buys a handgun and uses it to rob a liquor store, that the handgun manufacturer is complicit.”

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