Two charged over hacking network targeting US government officials
Two North Carolina men have been charged in connection with a computer hacking network that allegedly targeted CIA Director John Brennan and other senior US government officials.
Federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, said Andrew Otto Boggs, 22, known online as "Incursio," of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and Justin Gray Liverman, 24, also known as "D3F4ULT," of Morehead City, North Carolina, will make initial court appearances next week.
Prosecutors say Boggs and Liverman were members of a hacking group called Crackas With Attitude.
Beginning in October, hackers gained access to personal online accounts of senior government officials. The officials are not identified in a 37-page affidavit.
Earlier this year, British authorities arrested a 16-year-old boy who they said used the name "Cracka" to target Mr Brennan and others. Indeed, the affidavit states that three British teenagers, ranging in age from 15 to 17, are members of the conspiracy.
The affidavit cites email exchanges in which Boggs tells another individual: "I want to carry on (Cracka's) legacy if or when he is arrested. I know he'll receive a harsh sentence because our government doesn't like being embarrassed."
According to the affidavit, Boggs and Liverman lived in their respective parents' homes. They used the hacked accounts to send harassing messages to their victims.
While Brennan is not named in the affidavit, he appears to be "Victim 1".
The affidavit states that Victim 1's emails were released by WikiLeaks on October 21 2015, which corresponds with a WikiLeaks disclosure pertaining to Brennan.
The leaked emails included a memo addressed to President Barack Obama in 2009 advising him to tone down rhetoric against Iran.
In one exchange, Boggs tells Cracka that he wants to hack Victim 1's agency because "I've been looking for evidence of aliens," according to the affidavit.
When the hackers would gain control of an account, they would use access to promote the Free Palestine Movement, according to the affidavit. In another case, they pretended to be Edward Snowden when they contacted their victim.
News accounts indicate that the Crackas hackers targeted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and had his phones forwarded to the Free Palestine Movement.
The affidavit includes online conversations among the hackers discussing such a plan, but the victim is not identified.
In all, the affidavit refers to five victims - four who were government officials or family members, and one who was a corporate CEO.
Authorities also accuse the hackers of calling in a false bomb threat to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office in Florida earlier this year.
The hackers are also accused of publishing the names and emails of thousands of employees at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and about 80 Miami-area law enforcement officers.
A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment because the criminal case is ongoing.