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Federal authorities have arrested two men on charges they were part of a group that broke into the private e-mail accounts of high-ranking US government officials and a Justice Department computer system.
Andrew Otto Boggs, 22, of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and Justin Gray Liverman, 24, of Morehead City, North Carolina, were part of a group calling itself “Crackas with Attitude,” federal prosecutors alleged.
Although an FBI affidavit filed in the case didn’t identify the targeted government officials by name, The Washington Post and other news organizations, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, said they included CIA Director John Brennan, then-Deputy FBI Director Mark Giuliano, National Intelligence Director James R.
Clapper, and other high-ranking officials.
The group also used its unauthorized access to a Justice Department management system to obtain and later publish the names, phone numbers, and other personal details of more than 29,000 FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials.
According to the affidavit, the group didn’t rely on computer hacking to break into restricted accounts.
Instead, they used social engineering, in which they impersonated their targets and various IT support personnel purporting to help the victims. On October 11, 2015, one of the suspects allegedly accessed the account of one target, identified by the WaPo as Brennan, by posing as a technician from Verizon.
The suspect then tricked another Verizon employee into resetting the password for Brennan’s Internet service. Prosecutors said the suspects went on to take over a Brennan AOL account.
The group allegedly used similar techniques to access other accounts.
The affidavit said another group member appeared to gain access to a law enforcement database by calling an FBI help desk and asking that Giuliano’s password be resent.
About a week later, a group member published a 47-page security clearance questionnaire containing highly personal information, which Brennan completed to obtain his post.
Around the same time, the group published a separate spreadsheet containing the personal data on the 29,000 FBI and DHS employees.
A day later, a group member presented evidence showing it had hijacked accounts belonging to Clapper.
According to prosecutors, at least three other suspected members located in the UK are under investigation by that country’s Crown Prosecution Service.
The affidavit accused the UK members of performing most of the social-engineering feats.
It alleged suspects Boggs and Liverman encouraged fellow group members of compromising the accounts and then using the exposed information to harass the targets.
The affidavit also alleged Liverman and another member were behind a fake bomb threat phoned into police in Balm Beach, Florida, in January.
The complaint accuses the two suspects of participating in a criminal conspiracy.
They’re scheduled to make their initial appearance next week in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.