The first of five individuals associated with the hacker group known as 'Crackas Wth Attitude' (CWA), that are alleged to have hacked online accounts of U.S Government officials in 2015, has pleaded guilty. 24-year-old Justin G. Liverman of North Carolina entered a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department on Jan. 6.
Liverman is one of two American citizens and five individuals who were alleged to be part of the CWA effort that was able to exploit internet accounts owned by senior U.S Government officials including CIA Chief John Brennan and U.S Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
"Liverman's plea admits guilt to a conspiracy to commit unauthorized computer intrusions, identity theft, and telephone harassment," the Department of Justice stated.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, Liverman pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy. According to the agreement, Liverman's actions were responsible for $95,000 in damages, out of $1.5 million in total damages caused by the CWA.
According to the original affidavit in the case, the CWA attackers used anonymizing software and social media platforms to communicate with each other, as well as to obtain unlawful access to online accounts and harass their victims.
The CWA attackers used social engineering techniques in order to exploit victim's accounts. Among the exploits that were conducted was one in November 2015, when a member of the CWA was able to gain access to a victim's Comcast account. Using the victim's credentials, a member of the CWA was able to gain access to the victim's account for the Law Enforcement Portal (LEEP). A member of the CWA then released information from the LEEP system on more than 80 officers from several Miami-area law enforcement agencies. The CWA also, according to the affidavit, made a false bomb threat to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office in West Palm Beach, Fla. in January 2016.
As part of the statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Liverman's role was identified as publicly posting online documents and personal information unlawfully obtained from a victim's personal account. Additionally, Liverman sent threatening text messages to the same victim's cellphone.
Liverman will be sentenced on May 12 and faces up to five years in prison. His U.S co-defendant, Andrew Otto Boggs, who also is from North Carolina, is expected to enter a guilty plea on January 10, according to the DoJ.
Liverman's legal defense was assisted by the Courage Foundation, which is a group that aims to help support the efforts of whistleblowers.
"Nothing was really hacked in this case because important government officials and agencies left the door wide open," Courage attorney Tor Ekelan said in a statement. "One hopes that hostile nation state actors didn't walk through that open door before Justin (Livermore) did."
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.