Skip to main content
Press Release

Florida Computer Programmer Arrested For Hacking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – A South Florida-based computer programmer made an appearance in the Southern District of Florida today after being arrested Sunday on charges of hacking into computers operated by the Linux Kernel Organization and the Linux Foundation, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

The Linux Kernel Organization operates the website from which it distributes the Linux kernel software. The Linux Foundation is a separate nonprofit foundation that supports the website.

Donald Ryan Austin, 27, of El Portal, Fla., was arrested during a traffic stop on August 28, 2016, by officers of the Miami Shores Police Department. Austin was arrested pursuant to a four-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Northern District of California on June 23, 2016, and unsealed Tuesday.

Austin is charged with causing damage to four servers located in the Bay Area by installing malicious software. Specifically, he is alleged to have gained unauthorized access to the four servers by using the credentials of an individual associated with the Linux Kernel Organization. According to the indictment, Austin used that access to install rootkit and trojan software, as well as to make other changes to the servers.  Austin is charged with four counts of intentional transmission causing damage to a protected computer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A).

Austin made his initial appearance in federal court in Miami, Fla., on August 29, 2016. He was released on bond today. Bail was set at $50,000.  Austin’s next scheduled appearance is in San Francisco at 9:30 a.m. on September 21, 2016, before the Honorable Sallie Kim, United States Magistrate Judge.        

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of ten years of imprisonment, and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A).  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated September 20, 2016