Man charged with hacking into Australian broadband network

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An unemployed truck driver was charged Wednesday with hacking into an Australian broadband network provider in an alleged crime that police say could have caused significant damage to the national Internet infrastructure.

David Cecil, 25, was charged in a court in New South Wales state with hacking into one of the National Broadband Network’s service providers and numerous other businesses and websites in Australia and overseas since May.

Police said Wednesday there was no evidence any personal information had been stolen.

Orange Local Court registrar Ailsa Ryder accepted prosecutors’ submission that Cecil could destroy evidence if he were released and denied him bail.

The investigation began in January, when Sydney University reported that its website had been hacked and defaced.

Cecil has been in police custody since he was arrested at his house in rural Cowra on Tuesday night. His next court appearance is scheduled for Friday, when he is likely to seek bail. He has not entered any plea.

Before the court hearing Wednesday, Australian Federal Police manager Grant Edwards told reporters that Cecil “could have potentially caused considerable damage to Australia’s national infrastructure by attacking the National Broadband Network.”

The Sydney-based wholesale Internet provider, Platform Networks, is one of 13 contracted by the government-owned company NBN Co., which is rolling out one of the world’s fastest fiber-optic broadband networks at a cost of 36 billion Australian dollars ($39 billion).

Cecil was charged over the NBN hacking with one count of unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

He also was charged with another 48 counts of unauthorized access of restricted data. Each of those counts is punishable by two years in prison.

Police said more charges were likely and that more hackers could be arrested.

“Malicious computer hacking won’t be tolerated,” Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor said in a statement. “Such criminality poses a serious risk to companies, and in the worst cases can threaten security and economic prosperity.”

Cecil used the online moniker “Evil” and his information technology skills were self-taught, police said.

“We’ll allege that he’s motivated by ego in his illegal hacking and proving his skills after complaining that he could not get work in the IT industry,” Edwards said.

The case’s chief investigator, police Superintendent Brad Marden, said the suspect’s main activity was “to deface and damage the systems rather than extract information.”

NBN Co. assured customers in a statement that its network had not been affected by the hacking.