On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that the 27 year old Virginia man, Nicholas Knight, who served as systems administrator in the nuclear reactor department of an aircraft carrier, was one of two individuals charged with one count of conspiring to hack the computer systems of about 30 public and private organizations, while he was active in his duty as a Navy member.
Along with Knight, a 20 year old Illinois man, Daniel Krueger, who was a student at an Illinois community college where he studied network administration, was also charged with the conspiracy count for his participation to hack into the computer servers as part of a plan to steal identities, obstruct justice, and damage a protected computer.
"The Navy quickly identified the breach and tracked down the alleged culprits through their online activity, revealing an extensive computer hacking scheme committed across the country and even abroad," said U.S. Attorney Danny Williams.
According to the Department Of Justice, both of them were initially known only by their online aliases as the members of a hacking group known as “Team Digi7al,” whose aim is to target government entities such as the U.S. Navy, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The victims included the following organizations as well:
- U.S. Navy
- U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- AT&T U-verse
- Harvard University
- Johns Hopkins University
- Library of Congress
- Los Alamos National Laboratory
- Louisville University
- MeTV Network
- Montgomery Police Department (Alabama)
- Peruvian Ambassador’s email (in Bolivia)
- San Jose State University
- Stanford University
- Toronto Police Service (Canada)
- Ultimate Car Page
- University of Alabama
- University of British Columbia (Canada)
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln
- World Health Organization
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation identified Knight and Krueger as the alleged hackers. There are also allegations on both of them to allegedly hack into Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University and the Toronto Police Service in Canada, the release said.
The NCIS detected a breach of the Navy's Smart Web Move database in June 2012. The database manages transfers for service members of all branches of the military and stores sensitive data records, including Social Security numbers, names, and dates of birth, for approximately 220,000 service members.
The data obtained from the organizations targeted by the hackers was posted online and shared via the Twitter account of Team Digi7al. The Navy was forced to shut down the system, mitigate the damage and pay the affected employees for identity theft and credit monitoring services.
No trial date for the men has been set so far, but if convicted, it is clear that both the men face a maximum prison sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine.