One of two Americans accused of participating in a hacking group that targeted several senior U.S. officials pleaded guilty to their role Friday in federal court.
Justin Liverman, 24, faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a single charge Friday related to his involvement with Crackas With Attitude, or CWA, a group of internationally dispersed pranksters who took credit for a series of computer intrusions suffered by high-ranking members of the CIA and FBI, among others.
According to a statement of facts entered in a Virginia courthouse Friday alongside his plea agreement, Mr. Liverman conspired online with his CWA cohorts as its members conducted a campaign of intimidation and harassment carried out against government officials starting in late 2015.
The Morehead City, North Carolina native engaged with other members of the group, egging on and encouraging them to compromise the internet accounts of various government officials beginning Nov. 2015 shortly after he first reached out to CWA’s core hacker, a British teenager who operated under the alias “Cracka,” the court filings say.
Days prior to linking up with Mr. Liverman, “Cracka” publicly took credit for compromising the AOL account of CIA Director John Brennan and supplying the stolen emails to WikiLeaks for publication. Impressed by his exploits, court documents indicate Mr. Liverman reached out shortly after the Brennan hack was publicized in Oct. 2015 and began conspiring online with other CWA members as they coordinated similar campaigns.
Though unidentified in court documents, previous reporting identified some of the group’s targets as Mark Giuliano, a former FBI deputy director, among others.
Mr. Liverman bragged of sending hundreds of threatening voicemails and text messages to Mr. Giuliano, according to chat logs and other digital evidence acquired by authorities. He also asked one of his CWA colleagues to use Mr. Giuliano’s compromised log-in credentials to scour a law enforcement database for the names and contact information for police officers from Miami, the likes of which he later shared publicly online, according to court filings.
The hacking group combined claimed at least 10 victims and caused around $1.5 million in damages, according to prosecutors, including $95,000 said to be personally attributable to Mr. Liverman.
One of his defense lawyers, Marina Medvin, asked U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee during Friday’s hearing to defer sentencing until May, after her client finishes his spring semester at Carteret Community College in North Carolina where he is studying computer science, Politico reported.
“It’s all about directing his intelligence…in a responsible way,” Ms. Medvin said of her client.
His co-defendant and fellow North Carolina native, 22-year-old Andrew Otto Boggs, is expected to plead similarly during a hearing set for Jan. 10.
The Justice Department said previously that British law enforcement was investigating at least three individuals alleged to be tied to the hacking group.