Stephen Puffer, aka the not-so-notorious "Dr SuSE," was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of hacking a county district clerk's new wireless network. However, the real story may be one of petty office politics, personal vendettas, and chronic paranoia.
The Houston Chronicle ran this story, relating the now-familiar tale of a helpful security consultant who nobly informs an important institution of weaknesses in their IT security posture -- and for his trouble, he is charged with a federal hacking crime.
But there's something fishy about this case (isn't there always?). First off, Puffer used to work for the County District Clerk's office, but left after a brief but "stormy" tenure. More significantly, though, the indictment mentions that Puffer's intrusion ended up costing the county exactly $5,000 in clean-up effort. Convenient for the prosecutor -- that dollar figure is the minimum amount required to get the attention of the Feds under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
It also happens to directly contradict statements made in this earlier Chronicle story. Back in March, Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse indicated repeatedly that Puffer's actions couldn't possibly have damaged anything. After all, the network Puffer allegedly r00ted was "only being tested," and "neither Puffer nor anyone else could have done any damage."
Stranger still, Bacarisse accuses the head of the county's Central Technology Department, Steve Jennings, of being in cahoots with Dr SuSE, giving up "information to help [Puffer] access the system." A serious allegation -- yet Jennings is not named as a co-conspirator, accomplice, or anything in the indictment.
Finally, there's the mysterious "pornographic picture" that was discovered on the "clerk's office server." Of course, Puffer denies any involvement with planting the porn, and is ready to prove it.
Is this whole incident an elaborate power play by a power-hungry Jennings to extend his office's fiefdom? Is it a case of a disgruntled former employee trying to make his old boss, an elected official, look bad? Or is Bacarisse simply covering up his own l4meness (and/or secret pr0n habit) by blaming dark forces aligning against him?