Federal law-enforcement officials charged three men Thursday for "conspiring to disrupt service" by redirecting visitors to Comcast's broadband portal in May 2008, which authorities said resulted in a loss to the cable operator of approximately $128,000.
In the indictment, government prosecutors accuse the men --Christopher Allen Lewis, 19, of Newark, Del.; James Robert Black Jr., 20, of Tumwater, Wash.; and Michael Paul Nebel, 27, of Kalamazoo, Mich.-- of being associated with the hacker group Kryogeniks.
The indictment alleges that on May 28, 2008, Lewis, Black and Nebel "used their hacking skills" to redirect all Comcast.net traffic to sites they had established. As a result, Comcast customers trying to read their e-mail or listen to voice mail were redirected to a site on which contained only a message that read, "KRYOGENIKS Defiant and EBK RoXed COMCAST sHouTz to VIRUS Warlock elul21 coll1er seven."
In addition, authorities alleged, Lewis, Black and Nebel altered the contact information for comcast.net to a sexually suggestive e-mail address and another with a gmail.com account.
In a statement, Comcast said, "We are grateful for the tremendous efforts undertaken by U.S. Attorney Michael Levy, Assistant U.S. Attorney Albert Glenn, and the lead FBI agent for their hard work and diligence for over a year to solve this case."
In May 2008, about 5 million people per day connected to Comcast.net. At the end of the third quarter, Comcast had 15.7 million broadband customers.
If convicted, each of the three men faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment and up to three years of supervised release following any imprisonment, according to the FBI. In addition, the court could order the defendants to pay restitution to Comcast.
Comcast had previously said it believed the information for Comcast.net was altered through domain-name registration provider Network Solutions, which allowed the hackers to redirect the site.