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FBI investigating whether Scott contractor was a hacker

Sep. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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The FBI is investigating whether a civilian cybersecurity specialist at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, stole passwords and other login information from government personnel in Maryland.

The Belleville News-Democrat first reported on Aug. 30 that Jamie Magers, an Air Force contractor who was working for the Defense Information Systems Agency, was being investigated as an alleged hacker when he was found dead last September of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

“Nothing I've done was meant to hurt anyone,” Magers wrote in a portion of his suicide note addressed to the FBI, which was published by the News-Democrat. “I never planned to leak anything or release anything to the public ... If I could go back and undo my wrongs I would. I hope you know that I am a good person at heart, even if I let my (curiosity) get the better of me.”

The FBI first began looking into Magers shortly before his death after government personnel in Maryland discovered that passwords to an email account and the domain controlling the account had been compromised, according to a recently unsealed request for a search warrant for Magers’ home.

Investigators found that other domains used to find security vulnerabilities in Defense Department computers had been infected with malicious software that harvests passwords and other login information, the search warrant request says. The software traced back to Scott Air Force Base and Magers’ home.

Later, investigators found the log of an online chat between Magers and Brian Wohlwinder, another Air Force contractor stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, where Magers once worked, the warrant request says. Magers allegedly wrote: “Dude, I have something epic ... Yeah, Passwords, logons, access to servers.”

Wohlwinder could not be reached for comment; two publicly listed phone numbers were not in service.

As investigators zeroed in on him, Magers contacted the government agency in Maryland to say that he had discovered security vulnerabilities during a weeks-long investigation, the warrant request says. Given that the cyberscurity personnel at Scott Air Force Base are a “tightly-knit community,” Magers likely had heard about the investigation, the investigating FBI agent wrote in the warrant request.

Magers explained to the agency that he accessed the email account and domains in order to fix security flaws, but his story was “inconsistent with the information uncovered” during the investigation, the warrant request says. Furthermore, the FBI discovered deleted emails with passwords and other information in the email account that Magers acknowledged taking control of.

The Defense Information Systems Agency deferred questions about the scope of the data breach and whether any disciplinary action has been taken against other personnel to the FBI, which declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing.

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