Man Indicted in Cable Modem Hacking Scheme

The FBI unsealed charges recently against Ryan Harris, 26, who they say developed hardware and software tools to enable people to configure their cable modems to give them free Internet access.

Federal authorities unsealed charges in Boston Nov. 2 against a man they allege developed tools to help people steal free Internet access by modifying cable modems.

Charges against 26-year-old Ryan Harris, who has residences in Redmond, Ore., and San Diego, were unveiled Nov. 2. According to authorities, Ryan and the company he founded, TCNISO, developed and distributed hardware and software tools that enabled customers to modify their cable modems and mask themselves as paying Internet subscribers. This in turn allowed them to access ISPs' networks without authorization for premium high-speed access.

The operation allegedly went on from 2003 through 2009. According to authorities, one of the customers who used Harris and TCNISO's products and assistance to steal Internet access was a male juvenile from Massachusetts known by the online alias "DShocker." In November 2008, the juvenile-whose name is being withheld to protect his identity-was charged in federal court with computer intrusion, interstate threats and wire fraud.

The indictment also charges that TCNISO offered ongoing customer support to assist customers as they hacked their cable modems.

Harris was charged in a six-count indictment with conspiracy, computer intrusion and wire fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine and restitution on each count.