Tech Industry

Security head accused of 'hack and tell'

The president of Forensic Tec is arraigned on charges that his company intruded into several government and military computers as an alleged publicity stunt.

The head of security firm Forensic Tec Solutions was arraigned Tuesday by federal prosecutors on computer crime charges stemming from the company's intrusion into several government and military computers last year.

The company publicized the attacks in August 2002, telling The Washington Post that the ease with which the consultants were able to breach the systems' security indicated flaws in the nation's most sensitive computers.

On Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California unsealed a January 2003 grand jury indictment, charging the president of Forensic Tec, Brett Edward O'Keefe, with conspiracy and five violations of computer-crime statutes. The indictment alleged that San Diego-based Forensic Tec's activities were a publicity stunt intended to drum up clients for the small company.

"The object (of the intrusions was) to obtain unauthorized access to government and private sector computers and copy computer files with the hope that this activity would make money by bringing in new clients and creating public visibility for the company," the indictment states.

Forensic Tec co-founder Aljosa Medvesek and business administrator Margaret Ann Lauffer were arrested last week and have already pleaded guilty to separate charges under an agreement with prosecutors, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Parmley. O'Keefe couldn't be reached for comment and hasn't yet retained an attorney, he added.

The arrests were the result of a year-long investigation that started when the FBI and the Army's Criminal Investigative Division searched Forensic Tec's offices the day after the article in The Washington Post was published. The U.S. Navy, the San Diego Regional Criminal Forensics Laboratory and the Offices of the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy and NASA eventually took part in the investigation as well, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California.

At the time, O'Keefe told Reuters: "Yes, it was a risk for us to come forward, but if we didn't, who's to say the next person to come across these networks would do the right thing?"