Sunday, February 3, 2008

Computer hacker made WebTV boxes call 911

A Louisiana man pleaded guilty in 2005 to two federal felonies for tricking a handful of MSN TV users into running a malicious e-mail attachment that reprogrammed their set-top boxes to dial 911.

In a plea agreement with prosecutors, David Jeansonne, admitted to committing a computer attack that created a threat to public health or safety, and to damaging a protected computer and causing a least $5,000 in harm.

Jeansonne targeted 18 specific MSN TV users in an online squabble when he crafted the script in July 2002, and sent it out disguised as a tool to change the colors on MSN TV's user interface. Some of the recipients forwarded it to friends, for a total of 21 victims.

Known as WebTV before it was acquired by Microsoft, MSN TV works with television set-top boxes to allow users to surf the Web and send and receive e-mail without using a PC. The boxes connect to the Internet through a local phone number. The malicious script changed the dialed number to 911. The box would summon help when it tried to make an automatic daily call to the network at midnight.

The hack resulted in police responding 10 times to false alarms at subscribers' homes. (info from Security Focus)

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