TULSA, Okla. — A Salem, Ill. community college student and an enlisted man on an aircraft carrier hacked into U.S. Navy computer systems and those belonging to more than 30 other government entities, schools and corporations, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
Daniel Trenton Krueger, 20, of Salem, and Nicholas Paul Knight, 27, of Chantilly, Va., were accused of conspiring “to hack computers and computer systems as part of a plan to steal identities, obstruct justice, and damage a protected computer” from April 2012 to June 2013, court documents and prosecutors said.
Knight, a former systems administrator in the nuclear reactor department of the USS Harry S. Truman, was the self-proclaimed leader and publicist of “Team Digi7al,” prosecutors said. He used the names Inertia, Iner7ia, Logic and Solo and has been a hacker since the age of 16, charging documents say. He was discharged from the Navy after he was caught trying to hack a Navy database while at sea, documents claim.
In an interview with a reporter for the website Softpedia, parts of which are quoted in charging documents, "Iner7ia" said that he was originally a white hat hacker, who found and reported security vulnerabilities. But he became bored and said "the people I did work for were ungrateful and sometimes they wouldn’t take me seriously."
He admitted being a member of the Navy, and said that he worked for the people of the U.S. hacking primarily government sites, not the government. "I believe that if we can’t protect ourselves against a cyber attack, then how can we trust the government to protect against anything else?"
He said that he uses a separate computer to avoid being caught, and at one point said, "I just hope that I can retire knowing I was never caught and arrested. Haha"
Krueger, who was studying network administration at an undisclosed college, did the hacking “out of boredom,” prosecutors said. He went by the names Thor, Orunu, Gambit and Chronus.
Charging documents say that in June of 2012, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) detected a breach of a Naval database located in Oklahoma that contains the Social Security numbers, names, and birth dates of roughly approximately 220,000 members of the military.
“The Navy quickly identified the breach and tracked down the alleged culprits through their online activity, revealing an extensive computer hacking scheme committed across the country and even abroad,” said U.S. Attorney Danny C. Williams of the Northern District of Oklahoma.
The NCIS and Defense Criminal Investigative Service identified Knight and Krueger as the hackers of the Navy database as well as systems belonging to the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, AT&T U-verse, universities, police departments in Toronto and Alabama and the entire email account of the Peruvian ambassador to Bolivia, prosecutors said.
They posted links to the data via Team Digi7al's Twitter account, and one co-conspirator said they released the data because they were “somewhat politically inclined to” but also because it was “fun, and we can,” prosecutors said.
The U-verse hack compromised the personal information of 3,500 customers. The June 2012 Navy hack left 700 overseas military members unable to access the system and get “logistical support” for their transfers for more than 10 weeks and cost the Navy more than $500,000, documents say.
After the NCIS searched Knight's Virginia home in February of 2013, he admitted “many” of his Team Digi7al activities and agreed to cooperate, but told a juvenile co-conspirator to delete data, charging documents say.
That juvenile and two others who hacked for Team Digi7al were not charged, court documents say.
Knight and Krueger could not be reached for comment Tuesday. No lawyers were listed in court documents.