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CHICAGO — A Tennessee man pleaded guilty in federal court today to charges he helped launch cyber-attacks on corporations, universities and governmental entities throughout the world.
As a member of the hacking group “NullCrew,” TIMOTHY JUSTEN FRENCH exploited computer vulnerabilities to obtain unauthorized access and steal confidential information, including encrypted personal data of thousands of individuals. French acknowledged in a plea declaration that it is the government’s position that his cyber-attacks caused at least $792,000 in monetary loss to the victims, which included companies, universities and governmental entities.
French, 21, of Morristown, Tenn., pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally damaging a protected computer without authorization. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 9, 2016, at 3:45 p.m.
NullCrew is a group of computer hackers who carried out a series of cyber-attacks against businesses, universities and governmental entities in the United States and throughout the world. To publicize their intrusions, French and other members of NullCrew maintained Twitter accounts, including @NullCrew_FTS and @OfficialNull, which they used to announce their cyber-attacks, ridicule their victims and publicly disclose the confidential information they had stolen, according to the plea declaration. French hid his true identity by using Internet aliases, including “Orbit,” “@Orbit_g1rl,” “crysis,” “rootcrysis,” and “c0rps3.”
French admitted in the plea declaration that he participated in at least seven cyber-attacks while a member of NullCrew from 2012 to 2014. One of the attacks was carried out against a large Canadian telecommunications company, while another attack targeted a U.S. state, according to the plea declaration.
The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway.