Sunday, August 10, 2003

Young hacker charged again


Milford man accused of theft of company files

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo]


A 24-year-old Milford hacker accused of breaking into one of the world's largest consumer database companies has been charged three other times this year for similar crimes and is expected to be charged federally soon, according to court records and authorities.

Daniel J. Baas appeared in Hamilton County Municipal Court Saturday on the fourth and most recent charge of unauthorized use of property. He remains jailed on $120,000 bond at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

When Baas appeared before Municipal Judge Nadine Allen Saturday on his latest charge, Sheriff's Detective Rick Sweeney of the county's Regional Electronic Computer Investigative unit told the judge that Baas soon would be charged federally.

Prosecutor Mike Allen said hacking into businesses to get corporate or trade secrets is an insidious problem.

"Businesses have to feel secure that their information stays confidential. You just can't have someone hacking into a business's confidential information," he said. "It's really no different than someone breaking into an office and stealing files."

While Hamilton County sheriff's detectives won't comment on their investigation of Baas, officials at the Arkansas-based Acxiom Corp., one of the world's largest consumer database management companies, have said sheriff's officials notified them recently of a computer breach.

The company also was told a hacker had been arrested in connection with accessing the computer systems on Acxiom and other companies.

Baas' Friday arrest record states he entered a computer belonging to Acxiom on Dec. 10, without authorization or consent and copied information. Evidence was recovered, and additional charges are pending, according to the arrest report. That case goes to a grand jury Aug. 18.

Company officials say the hacker gained access to information about a small percentage of customers of Acxiom's clients. All of the information was encrypted, and none appears to have been used for illegal purposes, they said.

The hacker is a former employee of an Acxiom client, the company said.

On Friday, Baas was indicted on two counts stemming from an Aug. 1 arrest. In that case, officials allege that on April 10 he illegally accessed the computers of his then-employer, Market Intelligence Group LLC, in downtown Cincinnati, according to court records. He is due in court on those charges Monday.

He was fired from Market Intelligence on June 3, the same day the sheriff's office notified his employer he was under investigation, said Robert Migliara, the company's president.

"We were unaware of his misuse of computers and property, absolutely," Migliara said.

Baas worked for the small Web hosting company with three employees for 21/2 years as the network administrator in Web applications, Migliara said. Baas set up office computer systems, he said.

He was charged with the same crime against an unnamed company on June 3, also for another April 10 offense, records show. In that case, Baas is accused of hacking into the computer database of an unnamed company and providing "personal information regarding a subject's name and home address and telephone number without the consent or permission of the owner," records show.

A man and a woman Sweeney identified in court as Baas' parents attended Saturday's brief proceeding but declined to answer a reporter's questions. The man stressed to the judge that Baas turned himself in Aug. 1.

Ryan DeMougin, 25, of Mount Carmel, who was in the courtroom Saturday, called Baas a friend and said he is "really into computer security." But, DeMougin stressed, he didn't think Baas would use his skills to break the law.

"He's not malicious at all. He's a very curious person," DeMougin said of Baas.

Just before Baas' Aug. 1 arrest, DeMougin said, Baas called him, indicating he was going to turn himself into authorities.

DeMougin said he thought Baas was acquainted with Jessie Tuttle, the internationally known "Hackah Jak" from Camp Dennison who is charged with breaking into Hamilton County's computer network. Tuttle's attorney has said Tuttle has been a paid informant for federal authorities for nearly two years. The FBI, as a matter of routine, does not discuss its informants.

Tuttle declined to comment Saturday on Baas other than to say he doubted Baas, whom he says is known online as "Epitaph" or "Eppy" for short, would sell the information or do something harmful with it.

The two men have chatted online, had an "occasional friendship" and once met at one of the monthly meetings of a computer hacker club called Cincinnati 2600 at Cody's Cafe in Clifton, Tuttle said.

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com




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