FBI used spyware to catch cable-cutting extortionist

CIPAV spyware helped nab unemployed engineer angry over outsourcing

The FBI used spyware to catch a Massachusetts man who tried to extort money from Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. by cutting 18 cables carrying voice and data in 2005, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Wired.com revealed yesterday.

Although the man's name was redacted in the documents provided to the Web site, their description of the case matches that of Danny M. Kelly, an unemployed engineer who at the time lived in Chelmsford, Mass. According to federal court records, Kelly was accused of cutting a total of 18 above-ground communications cables between November 2004 and February 2005 as part of a plot to extort money from Verizon and Comcast.

"Kelly sent a series of anonymous letters to Comcast and Verizon, in which he took responsibility for the cable cuts and threatened to continue and increase this activity if the companies did not establish multiple bank accounts for him and make monthly deposits into these accounts," the original complaint read.

According to the complaint, Kelly demanded $10,000 monthly from each company, and he told the firms to post the bank account information on a private Web page that he demanded they create.

"Both Comcast and Verizon did create the requested private Web pages in an effort to communicate with the extortionist and to gather information that might identify him," the complaint said. "When Kelly accessed the Web pages, he did so via an anonymizing Web site through which he sought to hide the Internet Protocol address of the computer he was using and therefore hide his identity."

The documents obtained by Wired.com said that the FBI obtained a warrant to use a program called Computer and Internet Protocol Address Verifier (CIPAV) to identify Kelly's computer as the one that accessed the extortion Web sites.

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