He went by the online nickname “Green,” and associated with a small group of hackers that called itself the “Underground Intelligence Agency.”
Andrew James Miller was a proficient computer hacker who accessed networks belonging to law enforcement offices and corporations, academic institutions, and government agencies, including the Department of Energy, and he shared that access with other people, sometimes even selling it.
“He was the network intruder, he was the guy with his fingers at the keyboard,” said Assistant US Attorney Mona Sedky.
But on Wednesday, Miller, 24, who lives with his parents in Pennsylvania and says he cares for his disabled mother, told a federal judge in US District Court in Boston that he was sorry. He had already pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy, obtaining information without authorization from a computer, and damaging a computer, and had asked to be sentenced to probation.
“I’m truly sorry for my damage, and wish to do anything I can to correct the situation,” he pleaded.
US District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf, saying he was concerned with the scope of Miller’s crimes and his breach of security systems, including government systems, instead sentenced Miller to 18 months in prison, the most he faced under sentencing guidelines that took into account his lack of a criminal history.
Wolf also imposed a $25,000 fine.
“It is not my concern that the sentence is too high, it’s that it’s too low,” the judge said, noting Miller’s breach of security systems could have exposed intellectual property at universities, sensitive law enforcement information, commercial information, even national security.
“There’s no question he knew what he was doing was wrong,” Wolf said.
Federal prosecutors had also asked that Miller be sentenced to 18 months, saying computer hackers often believe their crimes will go undetected, and that they will not be punished.
Miller was first investigated by the Secret Service for hacking when he was 14 years old, but the charges were referred to the state juvenile system in Pennsylvania because of his age, according to prosecutors and court documents. Still, he went on to commit more crimes, the prosecutors said.
“He knew that he was doing something illegal, and he could get arrested and go to jail for it,” said Assistant US Attorney Adam J. Bookbinder, “but because he was making money, he was willing to do it.”
Miller was indicted in June 2012 after allegedly accessing more than 50 networks over several years. In 2011, he had illegally accessed two supercomputers that were used for research projects for the Department of Energy, and tried to sell the access to an undercover FBI agent for $50,000.
Miller’s lawyer, Nino V. Tinari, had argued that he was only a low-level player in the scheme. He also described Miller as a young family man who did not realize the seriousness of his crimes, and said he is undergoing mental health treatment for depression, anxiety, and other illnesses.
But Wolf told Miller other defendants have come before him with similar mental health ailments, but were still held responsible for their crimes.
“You’re a person who apparently has extraordinary computer abilities,” the judge told Miller. “But for some reason, by the time you were 14 years old, you determined you should use your considerable talent for illegal activities.”