Teen pleads guilty to hacking government Web sites

THE BALTIMORE SUN

DALLAS - A high school senior who is believed to have co-founded an international computer hacking group was sentenced to five years' probation after he pleaded guilty to defacing several government Web sites.

Robert Russell Sanford, 18, of Irving, Texas, admitted hacking into Internet sites owned by a Wisconsin publishing company and five government agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, the Texas State Auditors Office and the Canadian Department of National Defense.

Sanford also pleaded guilty Wednesday to a charge of aggravated theft of more than $20,000, stemming from the financial loss the victims claimed after the defacements.

He was ordered to pay $45,856 in restitution.

Sanford, who was part of the hacking group known as "hV2k" and used Internet handles "eg0death" and "bleeding angel," was sentenced in a plea agreement with Dallas County prosecutors.

Terms of Sanford's probation include drug treatment, submitting to a police interview, undergoing "maintenance" lie-detector tests and limiting his computer use.

After Sanford's indictment, his alleged co-conspirator, a juvenile from Canada, began e-mailing the Dallas Morning News and defense attorney E. X. Martin III.

The juvenile, who entered a special pretrial diversion program in Nova Scotia, said that he, not Sanford, was solely responsible for the Texas government hacks.

"He didn't do those government hacks," the juvenile, whose name is being withheld because of his age, wrote. "I did those hacks, along with others, and I even admitted to the [Canadian police] on videotape."

But on Wednesday, prosecutor Bart Bevers put in evidence the juvenile's videotaped police interview and a transcript. The transcript quotes the juvenile as telling police several times that both he and Sanford were jointly responsible for the Texas government hacks.

Martin said that Sanford is an intelligent young man who is now aware how serious the defacements were.

"I can see where a kid would see this as nothing more but a computer game," he said. "But I can see where it embarrassed some government officials who were probably telling their superiors their Web site was bulletproof when it really was marginally secure at best."

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