US man convicted for helping thousands steal Internet service

The business owner faces 20 years in prison for each of seven counts of wire fraud

An Oregon man has been convicted of seven courts of wire fraud for helping thousands of people steal Internet service, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Ryan Harris, 26, of Redmond, Oregon, was convicted Thursday by a jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. He faces a prison term of up to 20 years and a fine of up to US$250,000 on each of the seven counts.

Harris was owner of the company, TCNISO, which distributed products that helped customers steal Internet service, the DOJ said in a press release. From 2003 to 2009, Harris distributed software and hardware tools that allowed his customers to modify their cable modems to disguise themselves as paying customers, the agency said.

The products included a packet sniffer, called Coax Thief, that intercepted Internet traffic so that the users could obtain the media access control addresses and configuration files of surrounding modems. TCNISO and Harris offered customer support, primarily through forums on the TCNISO website, to assist customers in their cable modem hacking activities, the DOJ said.

"Mr. Harris tried to hide behind the banner of freedom of access to the Internet, but the evidence established that he built a million dollar business helping customers steal Internet service," Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the DOJ's Criminal Division, said in a statement.

Harris' lawyer wasn't immediately available for comment on the conviction.

Harris' sentencing is scheduled for May 23.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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