SALT LAKE CITY — A grand jury has indicted a 21-year-old "hacktivist," who is believed to have accessed two Utah law enforcement websites earlier this year.
John Anthony Borell III, of Toledo, Ohio, is charged with two counts of computer intrusion for allegedly hacking into protected computers without authorization on two occasions in January and intentionally causing damage to servers hosting websites for two Utah law enforcement agencies.
Borell is believed to have accessed a server hosting a website for the Utah Chiefs of Police Association on Jan. 19 and one hosting the Salt Lake City Police Department website on Jan. 31. Prosecutors say he then tweeted about his actions, providing usernames and passwords to the site.
"I just need it back up for 30 seconds so I can log in and rick roll them all," Borell posted on one of his many Twitter accounts on Jan. 19, according to court documents.
A Salt Lake City-based Associated Press reporter contacted a man claiming to be responsible via Twitter, asking for more information. Borell responded with, "It was at the time an unrelated hack, just one I was working on, but I decided it was a good spot to spread the message about megavideo."
Megavideo and Megaupload are file-sharing websites that allowed users to share and watch files, many of them illegal. Federal agencies shut down the sites on Jan. 19, prompting hackers from Anonymous to retaliate by launching an attack on federal and public websites.
Damages to the chiefs' website was estimated to be $150,000, according to court documents. Website administrators for Salt Lake police calculated damages of nearly $33,000 for the incident.
Another tweet stated: "SLCPD. Shut Down The Website, But Its Too Late For Damage Control. I Have Your Crime Tip Police Reports. Will Keep Them Safe For You."
Salt Lake City took down the police website after noticing what had been done, specifically additional pages had been added to the site the agency uses to communicate with media and the public.
Borell allegedly claimed his primary motivation to hack the police website was SB107, a legislative bill that would have made it a crime to possess graffiti paraphernalia. The bill did not pass through the Utah Legislature.
The self-proclaimed hacker activist continued taunting the agency with various tweets, according to a complaint unsealed on Monday. "Looking at the files I snagged from you SLCPD, it seems these files can out your confidential informants, You should up your security," one stated.
KSL reporter Shara Park and other local news media had online conversations with the tweeter "ItsKahuna." The poster said he could provide a "sample of the released file" and shared a submission from the traffic complaints section of the police database. He also confirmed that he was part of "Anonymous" — an Internet group with no defined leadership or membership that targets various agencies, specifically law enforcement — and that he was responsible for hacking into the Salt Lake police website.
In another conversation, ItsKahuna wrote, "haha they wont ever find me, im too awesome :) Trust me, I wouldnt have gotten away with as much as I have if I wasnt careful enough to make sure I dont get caught Im like the gingerbread man, no one can catch me :P"
FBI agents arrested Borell in Ohio on March 20. He was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City Monday and pleaded not guilty to both counts.
The potential maximum sentence for each count of computer intrusion is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Borell spoke only briefly in court Monday, noting that he had seen the charges against him and that he understood them. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Samuel Alba then set the case for a five-day trial beginning June 25.
Any potential plea agreements must be completed by June 11, the judge said.
Borell will continue to be held at a halfway house in Ohio.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson credited Borell's arrest to the "outstanding job" done by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office. He would not comment on whether Borell might be responsible for other hacking cases.
"His capabilities speak for themselves," Johnson said.
Borell declined to comment as he left the courthouse.
Contributing: Emiley Morgan
E-mail: [email protected]