Stealing Internet access is a crime. But helping thousands of other people steal Internet access is a much more serious one. An Oregon man who sold hacked cable modems online has been sentenced to three years in prison after a federal court in Boston found him guilty of a scheme that earned him up to $1 million, the Boston Globe reports.
Ryan Harris, 28, was convicted of seven counts of wire fraud in March for selling modified hardware and software that allowed users to skirt restrictions placed by Internet service providers. Harris was also convicted of cloning modem addresses of paid Internet users, granting others fraudulent access. He published a how-to book on the topic titled Hacking the Cable Modem: What Cable Companies Don’t Want You to Know.
“Mr. Harris acted with absolute, knowing malice,” said prosecutor Mona Sedky during the hearing. “He had a desire to punish the cable companies … and he was motivated by greed.” Harris earned between $400,000 and $1 million over the course of several years. However, his lawyer, federal public defender Charles P. McGinty, argued that Harris was motivated by anger that corporations control the speed and quality of consumers’ online access.
Harris went by the moniker DerEngel, working primarily from California and Hong Kong. According to an indictment, he founded TCNISO Inc., a company specifically designed to peddle modem-hacking software. US District Judge Mark L. Wolf, who sentenced Harris at the hearing on Wednesday, said he hoped hackers and cyber criminals would get the message that their actions have consequences.