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Ohio man indicted for allegedly hacking Utah police websites

Published April 16, 2012 1:11 pm

Court • John Anthony Borell III is apparently "Anonymous" member.
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For an alleged hacker, John Anthony Borell III didn't stay very anonymous.

A federal indictment unsealed Monday accuses Borell of hacking into the websites of the Salt Lake City Police Department and the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, and then bragging about it to followers on Twitter and to Utah reporters.

"Do you think you could get me a recorded copy of the news broadcast from noon today :P," an indictment quotes Borell as asking in a Feb. 2 conversation on Twitter.

"We can send you the link when it gets done," KUTV reporter Emily Florez replied.

"So just to be 110% clear you are 'anonymous'?" Florez asked.

"Yes @ anonymous," Borell allegedly replied.

Borell, 21, pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of computer intrusion. If convicted, Borell faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each count and a maximum fine of $500,000.

He is apparently associated with a group called "Anonymous," which is a hacker-activist network that encourages members to hack into computer systems, court documents state.

Police arrested Borell in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, on March 20, according to court documents. He has been living in a halfway house in Ohio since his arrest and will return there until trial.

After defense attorney Jamie Zenger entered the not guilty pleas for Borell, federal Magistrate Samuel Alba tentatively scheduled a June 25 trial.

Borell, a thin, pale man with acne and short brown hair, wearing a blue dress shirt with a black tie and black pants, was not shackled during his court appearance. He spoke only to answer a few routine questions from Alba.

The hacks into the police websites occurred in January. The indictment claims Borell accessed the Salt Lake City police's online tip system and posted confidential information about informants and police officers online. On the police chiefs' website, Borell posted information about police chiefs.

Richard Stiennon, a research analyst with the cyber security firm IT-Harvest, said Borell appears to have been part of a group within Anonymous that focused on attacking law enforcement. Borell may not have been among the more sophisticated hackers, but the confidential police information he posted makes his alleged hacks serious.

"Some of the damage he was causing was some of the more egregious types of attacks," Stiennon said.

The FBI launched an investigation into Borell's activities after learning he had used his Twitter account, under the name "itskahuna," to brag about hacking the two accounts. From there, FBI agents tracked the Twitter account to Borell by following IP addresses and other online tools.

"Basically its just good, old fashioned investigative work with a cyber component," said David Johnson, the FBI special agent in charge in Salt Lake City.

The indictment repeats the allegation that Borell targeted the Utah websites because he was upset with a bill in the state legislature, SB107, which would have made it a misdemeanor to carry markers, paint or other tools with the intent of using them to make graffiti. The bill did not pass into law.

The police chief website went online again days after the attack. Last week, the Salt Lake City Police Department relaunched its website at www.slcpd.com.

In a welcome video from Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank posted on the revamped site, the chief said loss of the website for nearly three months didn't inhibit police services, but did diminish communication with city residents by taking away a critical avenue to communicate with the public.

However, Johnson outside the federal courthouse Monday said the loss of the Salt Lake City police site means detectives may not have received some tips from the public that could have solved cases.

The indictment says the hack cost Salt Lake City police $33,000 in damage.

Police urged those who gave their email to the website to change their email passwords right away after the January breach.

The website's redesign includes better security to stop future hackers, Salt Lake City Police spokeswoman Lara Jones said last week.

"The steps we have taken to secure the website have resolved those issues," Jones said. "We feel it is secure."


Twitter: @natecarlisle —

Support for suspect

O A group of Twitter users on Monday were calling for Borell to be freed. The supporters, who were following a hashtag used by the Anonymous, #CabinCr3w, posted contact information to the U.S. Attorney for Utah.






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