Guilty plea for hacker who took Comcast off Web

He called a Comcast employee after taking control of the company's domain.

A member of a telephone hacking group known as Kryogeniks has pleaded guilty to taking Comcast's Web site offline in May 2008.

Christopher Allen Lewis pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to intentionally damage a protected computer system, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. That charge could lead to a five-year prison sentence and a US$250,000 fine.

"Mr. Lewis has accepted full responsibility for his participation in this offense and understands the gravity of the situation," his attorney, Nina Spizer, said via e-mail Thursday.

Lewis, who used the hacker name EBK, is one of three men charged with a hacking incident that disrupted Comcast's Web page for two days. He was charged in November, along with alleged co-conspirators James Robert Black and Michael Paul Nebel. Nebel pleaded not guilty. However, Black agreed to plead guilty in the case, something that could happen as soon as next week, according to his attorney, Zenon Olbertz.

All of the men were part of a "phone phreaking group called 'Kryogeniks,'" according to Lewis' plea memorandum.

According to the memorandum, Lewis used social-engineering techniques to get critical information over the phone. He called a Comcast employee at his Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, home on May 27 to see if he could get information on Comcast's Fearnet.com Web site, which offers on-demand horror movies and clips.

Still using the phone, Lewis got enough information to gain access to Comcast's Domain Name System account, operated by Network Solutions.

After they had control of the domain, Lewis called a Comcast employee at home to ask if the Comcast domains were working properly. In an interview with Wired News, conducted shortly after the incident, Lewis said he'd contacted Comcast's technical contact just to let him know what they'd done.

When the Comcast employee didn't believe their claims, they decided to redirect the Web site, Wired reported.

Lewis and his accomplices then changed the IP address associated with Comcast.net, directing it to another site that announced that Kryogenics had hacked Comcast.

Comcast was knocked offline for "at least 90 minutes," the plea agreement states. Visitors to the site were greeted with the message: "KRYOGENIKS Defiant and EBB RoXed COMCAST sHouTz to VIRUS Warlock elul21 coll1er seven."

At the time, Comcast.net was getting about 5 million visitors per day.

The incident cost Comcast about $128,000 and prompted an "intensive" U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation probe, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
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