SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An Ohio man linked to the hacker collective "Anonymous" pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of breaching the websites of the Utah Chiefs of Police Association and the Salt Lake City Police Department.
John Anthony Borell III took credit for the attacks on Twitter, said FBI officials, who subpoenaed the direct messages the suspect traded with Salt Lake City reporters. The FBI traced Borell's Twitter account to a workplace computer.
"That didn't hurt the investigation, of course, when people make comments like that," FBI agent David Johnson said Monday.
Borell appeared with a public defender at federal court in Salt Lake City after being released from a halfway house for the appearance.
He faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on two counts of computer intrusion, prosecutors said.
FBI agents say they don't know what motivated an Ohio man to tamper with the Utah police websites in January.
Prosecutors say Borell intruded on the chiefs' website server Jan. 19, then broke into the police department's website Jan. 31.
Salt Lake City police spent $33,000 to repair damage to their website and shore up security, and the hacker was able to access citizen's supposedly confidential crime tips and even some personal information on police officers, Johnson said.
FBI investigators tracked Borell through his Internet address associated with a Twitter account he had been using to claim responsibility for the attacks. The indictment cites several Twitter messages between local media, including an Associated Press reporter, and the suspect using the screen name (at)ItsKahuna, in which he takes responsibility for the hacking.
Borell was arrested March 20 and has been detained at a halfway house in Ohio. Borell and his lawyer refused to comment the case Monday.
The attack on the Utah servers came around the same time a spate of Internet attacks attributed to Anonymous occurred around the country, in Boston, Syracuse, New York, and overseas in Greece.
Saboteurs stole passwords and sensitive information on tipsters while hacking into the websites of several law enforcement agencies, police have said.
Authorities had said the hackers who attacked the Salt Lake City Police Department website gained access to citizen complaints about drugs and other crimes, including phone numbers, addresses and other personal data of informants.
The police website was just recently restored after additional security measures were added.
Anonymous is a collection of Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included financial institutions such as Visa and MasterCard, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies.
Following a spate of arrests across the world, the group and its various offshoots have focused their attention on law enforcement agencies in general and the FBI in particular.
At the time in February, Anonymous also published a recording on the Internet of a phone call between the FBI and Scotland Yard, gloating in a Twitter message that "the FBI might be curious how we're able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now."
In Greece, the Justice Ministry took down its site back in February after a video by activists claiming to be Greek and Cypriot members of Anonymous was displayed for at least two hours.
In Boston, a message posted on the police website before it was taken down said, "Anonymous hacks Boston Police website in retaliation for police brutality at OWS," an apparent reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The message also promised "there is plenty more mayhem to deliver."
Associated Press Writer Brian Skoloff contributed to this report.