Former Sailor, Student Charged With Hacking Computers Plead Guilty In Tulsa
TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa is the center of a federal investigation in what's being called a massive hacking conspiracy. Two men have pleaded guilty in the case and face up to five years in prison. Federal prosecutors say the men hacked into a Navy database in Tulsa.
It sounds like an episode from the TV show NCIS, but in this case it was real-life NCIS investigators targeting a man in Virginia who was hacking into computer servers in Tulsa.
Nicholas Knight is a 27-year-old former member of the U.S. Navy. He served aboard the USS Harry Truman as a systems administrator in the nuclear reactor department.
Knight and another man, a civilian in Illinois, 20-year old Daniel Krueger, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hack computers and steal identities in an investigation that dates to the summer of 2012.
Prosecutors say Knight and Krueger hacked into computer servers, at various places around the country. They were part of a hacking group called Team Digi7al.
Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ryan Souders, said, "Nicholas Knight called himself a 'nuclear blackhat fighting for the people rather than the government of the United States,'"
One particular server was the U.S. Navy's Smart Web Move database located in Tulsa. It stores personal information, like social security numbers, for 220,000 service members.
"Information that people can use to steal identities," U.S. Attorney, Danny Williams Sr., said.
He said NCIS cyber investigators set up a fake database while Knight was still serving aboard the USS Truman. He said Knight hacked it, giving them the evidence to file charges.
"There are just too many resources that are available for us to investigate these kinds of cases, and we're pretty good at what we do," Williams Sr. said.
Prosecutors say Team Digi7al, led by Knight and Krueger, hacked into servers that held information for the Library of Congress, Harvard University, the University of Alabama, and the World Health Organization.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Tulsa had jurisdiction because the Navy's server is located here.
Williams Sr. said, "The hackers have to also understand that they're going to be caught, and when they are caught, they're going to be prosecuted."
Knight and Krueger will be sentenced in August. They face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.