Hacker gets three years in prison for selling 'rooted' cable modems

By on June 29, 2012, 8:00 AM

A 28-year-old Oregon man has been sentenced to three years in prison for selling illegal products and services that allowed users to bypass restrictions imposed by ISPs. Ryan Harris, known online as DerEngel, reportedly earned between $400,000 and $1 million over several years through the illegal activity, which included the modification of cable modems to remove filters set by ISPs, allowing users to enjoy faster connections sans limitations without the provider's blessings.

It's reported that through his company, TCNISO, Harris sold hacked cable modems for up to $100 that supplied buyers with free Internet. He also offered various hacking products including "Sigma," "Blackcat" and "DreamOS" that granted free or enhanced Internet access. One product, "Coax Thief," intercepted MAC addresses and configuration data from neighbors. Harris went as far as writing a book 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, adding that he was motivated by greed and a desire to "punish" cable companies. "He acted on a grievance, as a lot of young people do," said Charles McGinty, Harris' federal public defender. McGinty insisted that while Harris was misguided, he was motivated by anger that ISPs could control the speed and quality of a customer's connection.

Laurie Jill Wood, director of security for Charter Communications, commented on the case Wednesday, claiming the company spent years combating Harris' wrongdoings. Because he cloned so many modems, Harris caused various headaches for Charter, including the accidental disconnection of legitimate subscribers. Even worse, Charter has been unable to identify users suspected of unrelated computer crimes.

"I think you committed a very serious crime," US District Judge Mark L. Wolf told Harris. In addition to a three-year prison sentence starting September 4, Harris will have three years of supervised release and must pay roughly $200,000 in fines and restitution.




User Comments: 30

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Lionvibez said:

I'm glad he did it cannot stand any of these big Cable ISPs.

They have been throttling my connection for 5+ years now and only removed it recently.

Are they going to give me money back for slowing down my connection which I was never told about **** them!

Opus Opus said:

Another sucker bites the dust

JohnnyUtah JohnnyUtah said:

Got to appreciate that last paragraph "I THINK you committed a very serious crime," US District Judge Mark L. Wolf told Harris." Even the judge is undecided how he feels about cable companies? ungodly bandwidth choke hold on customers. Proud of the dude for fighting them a-holes?getting my book from Amazon now!

MilwaukeeMike said:

I'm always amazed at how people side with the criminals in these cases. You can't stand the big cable ISP's, Lion? Then cancel your internet. Do you know how much your internet would cost if those ISPs were small and couldn't benefit from economies of scale?

Johnny... no... the judge thinks the crime is serious. The law says his actions are a crime. It doesn't matter what you or him or anyone thinks of cable companies. It doesn't make stealing ok. He's not fighting some noble fight... he's selling products that help people steal.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Got to appreciate that last paragraph "I THINK you committed a very serious crime," US District Judge Mark L. Wolf told Harris." Even the judge is undecided how he feels about cable companies? ungodly bandwidth choke hold on customers. Proud of the dude for fighting them a-holes?getting my book from Amazon now!

You can actually read people's minds, and you're still posting on the internet? Bro, you are missing out on so much money, you could buy thousands of OLED TVs if you can read minds.

Guest said:

I agree with Mike, the guy was stealing, he made over $400,000

soldier1969 soldier1969 said:

Charter deserves to be hacked and used this way, they overcharge the hell out of people because in most rural places its all you can get no competition. If this guy was smart he has enough money leftover to pay the fine off and move on easily.

Tygerstrike said:

So basically all these ppl siding with this criminal are all saying the same thing. because they dont agree with the cable companies pricing plans its ok to steal?? How moronic are you ppl? Its a business that provides a service. Thats all. If you dont agree with their pricing, dont use them. Just because someone doesnt like how much something costs, is no reason to steal. Its a justification. And a poor one at that. Have you ever tried looking at it from a different perspective?? More then likely not.

The cable company charges a rate that is what the market will bear. It includes the purchase of spectrum, the equiptment to run the service they provide, the payroll to pay their employees to run and manage the service, and around 20% above all those costs to pay stockholders and investers. With all that, how can you sit there and steal from them. You think your stealing from some faceless corporate giant. In reality, if it was say you or your mom working there and getting paid, how would you feel if they had to let you go because so many ppl are stealing the service that they cant afford to continue to employ you.Or how about so many ppl are stealing the service that your paychecks bounce? If your a US citizen, your just helping America lose jobs and forcing companies to go out of business, further weakening the US infrastructure.

So maybe next time ppl feel like stealing something, they should take a second to realize that they probly dont need whatever it is if they have to steal it. This isnt Sherwood, youre not Robin Hood, and everyone is poor.

Raswan Raswan said:

I'm always amazed at how people side with the criminals in these cases. You can't stand the big cable ISP's, Lion? Then cancel your internet. Do you know how much your internet would cost if those ISPs were small and couldn't benefit from economies of scale?

Johnny... no... the judge thinks the crime is serious. The law says his actions are a crime. It doesn't matter what you or him or anyone thinks of cable companies. It doesn't make stealing ok. He's not fighting some noble fight... he's selling products that help people steal.

What is he stealing, really? Bandwidth? Unlikely. We all know how the big ISPs pretend bandwidth is a precious resource that is fast disappearing because of Netflix. Sure, he's benefiting from the infrastructure, but other than that no harm here, except that he's preventing ISPs from gaining some subscribers (though you are fooling yourself if you think every one who bought a modded box from him would have gone legit). Bottom line: it's not as black and white as you'd like it to be. Do I think he's a hero? No. Does he deserve to be fined for all the money he's made plus interest? Probably. Go to jail? No way. The company would be better off hiring him to prevent such activities in the future. And we'd be better off prosecuting and jailing people who deserve it.

Guest said:

The issue I have with your argument, tygerstrike, is that we DON'T have a choice. We can deal without television, sure, but internet? It is becoming an increasing necessity like having a land line telephone used to be.

Also, factor in that in most places, there are not a whole lot of choices for different/competing ISPs, and the few choices offered aren't even close enough to really consider being competition.

Also, take a look at Europe. I can get 100Mbps+ speeds for dirt cheap over there, hell 100Mbps is practically standard in most places. Our ISPs are abusing capitalism to the extreme and power is only held by a handful of companies so they control it and milk it until they can't bleed anymore out of us and then they come out with the bigger and better.

I'm not saying what this guy did is justified totally, but I can understand why he did it.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I'm not saying what this guy did is justified totally, but I can understand why he did it.

Can you? He didn't do it because he thinks people should have it better than they do, he did it to make a ton of money. he's as greedy as you claim the cable companies are.

If it were possible to deliver 100Mbps speed for the same price, someone would set up the service and do it. You think the cable companies buy all the cable and then purposely keep it slow? They have to provide for ALL their customers. The ISP has to maintain the speed they agreed to give you. And yes, Raswan, netflix does matter. There's only so much bandwidth to go around. There's no fine print in your contract with your ISP that says 'only 30 hours of netflix per month.' You can stream as much as you want, and so can everyone else, and the ISP has to make sure everyone's service stays up to par.

So we all deal with limits. That's the way it is.

Guest said:

Hmmmmmm. People are such sheeps. So let me guess this if I sell you a knife. I just killed people. So I have committed a terrible crime. I deserve jail time.

Tygerstrike said:

@Guest

There are many ways to connect to the internet. Even in rural areas, I know I live in one. There are many options, to claim there isnt is a fail on the part of the person looking. Cellular internet, Hughes Net, ATT DSL, ect. So the argument that ppl cant get internet is based solely on the ability of the individual looking.

And you can live without the Internet....we did it for many many years. Just like we can live without many of the luxuries the US citizenship demands. It still doesnt excuse the gentleman in question from theft. He made money on the backs of ppl he was stealing from. Who cares what the product is. Its theft and I think his sentence is a gimme.

Guest said:

High speed internet is not a right. Even if internet is more nessesary then tv... you have a phone line, pick up a modem... it's paramount to stealing higher octain gas... they have a better gas, but they charge more for it, so I'll get it for free instead...

it's not like there arn't optopns, just not ones some of these people who think it's ok, like...

Guest said:

"I think you committed a very serious crime," US District Judge Mark L. Wolf told Harris.

Harris: Well Mr Judge. I think you have your head so far stuck up your *** that you don't have the slightest clue what a 'serious crime' is.

mosu said:

High speed internet is my right as a client if advertised and paid as, and there are places on Earth where one has only one option for a speedy connection(or none).But a theft is a theft and a parasite connection slows the legit customers even more.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I agree with Mike, the guy was stealing, he made over $400,000

So if I make over $400,000 selling a product, I'm a thief too? Speak in fallacies much?

____________________________________________________________
_______

I agree with Mike, the guy was stealing. FTFY.

Guest said:

Let's see him hack his way through his cell bars.

Tygerstrike said:

@Mosu

You are correct good sir. There are always options available to the consumer. They may not like the options available to them, but they are there.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Let's see him hack his way through his cell bars.

The Shawshank Redemption comes to mind, but I don't think 3 years is quite as bad as Andy Dufresne got in the movie.

lunarmikej61 lunarmikej61 said:

Actually Netflix has zero impact on bandwidth what so ever. I work for charter and can say with absolute certainty, the only issue Charter and others have with Netflix is the drop in on demand viewing. Nothing more nothing less. Its solely about corporate greed and the bottom line.

crohakon said:

Agreed. When you think about it, about 15 years ago you would have paid $25 for a 54Kbps connection. Now, Charter charges just $50 for 30Mbps. Considering everything that internet connection lets you do, I think it is well worth it. My suggestion is these kids remove head from arse and realize nothing is free. Just because you got things free when your parents paid for them, does not make them free in the real world.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

>> Do you know how much your internet would cost if those ISPs were small and couldn't benefit from economies of scale?

Yes, I know exactly. I live in a place where there are a lot of small ISPs and my 20mbit (100 mbit at night) connection costs me $10.

It's called competition, something long forgotten in the Land Of the Lawyers.

Guest said:

"reportedly earned between $400,000 and $1 million"

"Harris' federal public defender"

Idealist or just not able to hold on to earnings?

Guest said:

@Guest "High speed internet is not a right."

Yes it is. In Finland.

Guest said:

the thing is higher speed net doesnt always cost more to give out as is the case here

Guest said:

Do all you jealous losers ranting about "corporate greed" and suchlike juvenile nonsense contend that theft is a good thing, that it should be legalized?

Theft is illegal, wanton stupidity should be too!

Lionvibez said:

None of you have posted anything that has changed my opinon at all. I'm glad he did it. And hope someone else replaces him!

Guest said:

Regarding your last sentence .. he did 'deserve' jail time, he broken the law for big profit .. I would not want him to go to jail .. just sayin'

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

So basically all these ppl siding with this criminal are all saying the same thing. because they dont agree with the cable companies pricing plans its ok to steal?? How moronic are you ppl? Its a business that provides a service.
Well, Comcast has the tallest building in Philadelphia. They've just announced plans to build an even taller one, with a 1/2 mile long concourse going all the way to Suburban Station.

Point being, they didn't get as rich as they are, without making profits that are a crime in and of themselves. The only thing that mitigates their greed, is the stupidity of the people who are willing to unquestioningly pay for it. I mean really, do you really need to spend a couple of hundred bucks a month to run your mouth mindlessly, and endlessly, on a "smart phone"

Human nature dictates a lot of confusion in the mind of Joe Average, regarding whether or not someone fleecing the cable company has indeed committed a crime.

I'm just pissed that I didn't think of this scam first, so lock him up and throw the key away.

(Oh who am I kidding, I don't have the balls or the technical expertise to pull this off, so I'm probably just jealous).:oops:

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