Sony hacking suspect smashes computers to get out of prosecution

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

Sony PlayStation NetworkA 23-year-old man suspected of helping to hack into Sony's PlayStation Network got out of being penalized for the crime by smashing his computers and making his hard drives disappear.

Todd M. Miller, of Columbus, in the US state of Ohio, was sentenced on Thursday to a year on house arrest for obstructing a federal investigation and stymying an FBI investigation into the hack.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the judge also sentenced Miller to three years probation and ordered him to get his high-school equivalence certificate.

US District Judge Peter C. Economus said in federal court that Miller was a member of a hacking group called the KCUF clan that, starting in 2008, organized an ongoing attack on Sony’s servers.

The hack took the PlayStation Network offline in April 2011. Sony soon realized that the breach had enabled the attackers to access the personal data, including credit card information, of millions of online gamers.

PlayStation Network maintenance message

The April attack ushered in a series of over a dozen attacks against Sony websites around the world that played out over the following months.

Sony wound up getting fined £250,000 ($383,767) by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office for breaching the Data Protection Act in connection with the hacks.

The FBI initially interviewed Miller in 2011.

When they came back with a search warrant, they found that his hard drives were nowhere to be found and that Miller had smashed his computers.

Without the computers, the FBI didn't have enough to prosecute Miller or another unnamed Columbus man on the hacking charges.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Miller has a ninth-grade education.

Miller told the judge that he was “immature and ignorant and caught up with the wrong people at the wrong time” when he destroyed his hardware but that he's since learned his lesson and that the judge "will not see [him] again."

Were the FBI to have gotten its hands on the hard drives, Miller would have been facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Judge Economus said that he saw no purpose to sentencing Miller to prison, given that he has a full-time job and "some stability" after a "tumultuous childhood," the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Your honor, let's hope you're right.


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7 Responses to Sony hacking suspect smashes computers to get out of prosecution

  1. The Maestro · 341 days ago

    Wow! "If I go down then my computer and hard drives will go with me!!!!" But at least the authorities broke up the hacker ring. I only condone hacks as long as they are White Hat. Such as finding flaws with software and cooperating with owners or authorities on how to solve it. No harm no foul. This malicious hacking just makes me nervous about the future :(

  2. Machin Shin · 341 days ago

    "was sentenced on Thursday to a year on house arrest for obstructing a federal investigation and stymying an FBI investigation into the hack."

    "Were the FBI to have gotten its hands on the hard drives, Miller would have been facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000."

    So..... for all you hackers out there, remember to have a plan for the quick and total destruction of evidence, the penalties are much less after all. No home computer is worth 20 years in jail and $250,000 after all...

  3. James · 341 days ago

    Sony got what they deserved!

    The hacker made a smart move and got what he deserved too.

  4. Randy · 341 days ago

    Why smash the computers? From an information mining standpoint, the hard drives ARE the computer. He could have put in a new HDD, reloaded the OS and be done with it. Maybe even Google "How to find and report hackers to the FBI" then don't bother to clear his temp files. I'll bet the investigation team would have done a double take on that one.

    • mike · 341 days ago

      Better safe than Sing Sing.

    • How does we know those parts were his computer? Sounds like any cracker should include a sack of smashed computer parts and a place to hide his real computer - and hard drive.

  5. roy jones jr · 339 days ago

    Its still a large stain on the network security Sony had back then. How much do businesses care? In Sony's case, it seemed like they only cared to a degree. And reacted only when something critical happened. Very sloppy.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.