AOH :: HACKERS3.TXT|
Who's fault Was it Really
HACKERS' OFF HOOK, PROPERTY RETURNED
By Danna Dykstra Coy
This article appeared in the Telegram-Tribune Newspaper, San Luis Obispo, CA.
April 12, 1991. Permission to electronically reproduce this article was given
by the newspaper's senior editor.
Two San Luis Obispo men suspected of computer tampering will not be charged
with any crime. They will get back the computer equipment that was seized
from their homes, according to Stephen Brown, a deputy district attorney who
handled the case. "It appears to have been a case of inadvertent access to a
modem with no criminal intent," said Brown. San Luis Obispo police were
waiting on Brown's response to decide whether to pursue an investigation that
started last month. They said they would drop the matter if Brown didn't file
The officer heading the case, Gary Nemeth, admitted police were learning as
they went along because they rarely deal with computer crimes. Brown said he
dosen't believe police overreacted in their investigation. "They had a
In early March two dermatologists called police when the computer system
containing patient billing records in their San Luis Obispo office kept
shutting down. They paid a computer technician about $1,500 to re-program
their modem, a device that allows computers to communicate through the
telephone lines. The technician told the doctors it appeared someone was
trying to tap into their system. The computer's security system caused the
shutdown after several attempts to gain access failed.
Police ordered a 10-day phone tap on the modem's line and, after obtaining
search warrants, searched four residences where calls were made to the skin
doctors' modem at least three times. One suspect, Ron Hopson, said last week
his calls were legitimate and claimed police overreacted when they seized his
computer, telephone, and computer manuals. Hopson could not reached Thursday
Brown's investigation revealed Hopson, like the other suspects, was trying to
log-on to a computerized "bulletin-board" that incorrectly gave the doctors'
number as the key to a system called "Cygnus XI". Cygnus XI enabled computer
users to electronically send messages to one another. Brown said while this
may not be the county's first computer crime, it was the first time the
District Attorney's Office authorized search warrants in a case of suspected
computer fraud using telephone lines. Police will not be returning several
illegally obtained copies of software also seized during the raids, he said.
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