OptusNet hacker guilty, hacking labelled 'intellectual pursuit'

NSW Police have scored a pyrrhic victory over the hacking of Internet service provider OptusNet with a Bankstown (Sydney) man proven guilty of two counts of unauthorised modification of data with intent to cause impairment before the New South Wales District Court.

Stephen Craig Dendtler, a 22-year-old software engineer, was released without fine or bond with no conviction recorded after the court heard that he had engaged in an "intellectual pursuit" with no real harm being caused despite him gaining access to the personal details of several thousand OptusNet customers through a "back-door" in the system.

Dendtler's defence argued that although his actions were illegal, it was akin to "getting into the vault of a bank and taking nothing". Asked by Magistrate Bill Pearce why Dendtler did such a thing, his defence counsel said "because it was there". The court heard that after entering the OptusNet system Dendtler posted the words "yippee, I did it".

The court also heard that Dendtler had used the humble family PC to commit the acts. Magistrate Pearce asked, "When dad's computer breaks down, does he fix it"? Dendtler¹s counsel replied that his parents were not altogether happy because the family PC had been forfeited to the police in the course of the investigation. No technical details were given of the family PC other than it was "not state of the art".

Visibly disappointed by lack of any penalty being imposed, the informant in the matter Detective Senior Constable Frank Schillero said in his personal opinion the decision sent "the wrong message" and left organisations "more vulnerable" to such attacks.

It is unknown whether the DPP will appeal the decision.

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Julian Bajkowski

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