‘Ruthless’ Wifi–Hacking Neighbor Gets Eighteen Years in Prison


A 46-year-old Minnesota man has been sentenced to eighteen years in federal prison for wreaking havoc on his neighbors and committing identity theft by stealing their wifi signal.

The sentencing caps off a bizarre tale that started in 2009, when the man downloaded wifi hacking software and spent two weeks cracking the neighbors’ WEP encryption.

Then he used their own wifi network to create fake social media accounts and email accounts, blazing a trail of threats and crimes along the way.

The FBI obtained a search warrant and found copies of data swiped from the neighbors’ computer, along with hacking manuals entitled Cracking WEP Using Backtrack: A Beginner’s Guide; Tutorial: Simple WEP Crack Aircracking; and Cracking WEP with BackTrack 3 — Step-by-Step Instructions.They also found handwritten notes plotting his revenge plans, and hard-copy postal mail stolen from the neighbors’ mailbox.

In 2010, he was indicted in federal court on two counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of making threats to the president and successors to the presidency, one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer, one count of possession of child pornography, and one count of distribution of child pornography.

According to federal sentencing court documents, “when he became angry at his neighbors, he vented his anger in a bizarre and calculated campaign of terror against them. And he did not wage this campaign in the light of day, but rather used his computer hacking skills to strike at his victims while hiding in the shadows. Over months and months, he inflicted unfathomable psychic damage, making the victims feel vulnerable in their own home, while avoiding detection.”

At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor requested a 24-year term, noting that the guilty man’s “ruthless cruelty” ranked him among the most dangerous people he’d ever prosecuted.

The judge sentenced him to eighteen years instead, though he will be on supervised release for twenty years following his time locked up. As a condition of his release, he can’t work with computers unless his probation officer approves.

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.

1 Response

  1. July 20, 2012

    […] Neighbor stealing WiFi? We just got a more powerful WiFi router a few months ago because the old one wasn't cutting it anymore. The new one seems to be much more powerful than the old one and I would imagine that the signal travels pretty far. I actually brought my laptop out to the end of my driveway (100+ feet from the router which is in the basement behind a concrete wall) in order to look at a tutorial online while working on my truck. This morning my wife noticed that when she went to look at Yahoo, it appeared that someone had been signed in as it read "Hello (e-mail address)" at the top right hand corner of the page. She immediately clicked "sign out" and called me to let me know. I want to figure out how my home network has been compromised so that it doesn't happen again. The odd thing was that it was an att.net e-mail address-not a Yahoo address. Does Yahoo support AT&T e-mail customers or something? Anyway, as a first step we're changing all of our passwords, but the router was password protected to begin with, so that didn't seem to stop this person. I'm not the most tech savvy person but I can follow steps if someone would be so kind as to tell me how to secure the network better. I did read one suggestion about naming the network something scary (using words like "trojan," "worm," "botnet," etc…) in order to make people think twice about trying access it, but obviously this will only scare away some people. It's stories like this one that make me more than little worried about unfettered access: ‘Ruthless’ Wifi […]

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