Hacker convicted of stealing Internet access

Sold information on techniques

An Oregon man was convicted yesterday in federal court in Boston on fraud charges in connection to a $1 million scheme to steal Internet access and sell products that allowed others to do the same.

The jury convicted Ryan Harris, 28, on seven of eight counts, according to a late entry yesterday on the docket for the case. His sentencing is set for May 23.

Harris’s lawyer, federal public defender Charles P. McGinty, could not be reached for comment last night.

McGinty told jurors during closing arguments Wednesday that his client did indeed tamper with modems to learn how Internet service providers were regulating them. But, McGinty argued, Harris should not be held responsible in a criminal court for what others did with the information.


Prosecutors countered that Harris, who published a book titled “Hacking the Cable Modem: What Cable Companies Don’t Want You to Know,’’ built a lucrative business between 2003 and 2009 that helped people defraud cable companies.

To access Internet service, Harris, who went by the name DerEngel, would modify, or uncap, a modem to remove filters set up by the Internet service provider, allowing the modem to have a quicker connection without the Internet service provider being able to throttle it.

Harris would also copy other people’s modem addresses, or identification codes that Internet providers use to confirm that a user is a paid subscriber.

According to an indictment, Harris lived in California and Hong Kong while operating his scheme and was the founder and president of TCNISO Inc., a San Diego-based company whose primary business was to sell cable modem hacking software and hardware products.

Some of Harris’s customers, who were not charged, lived in Worcester, Everett, Revere, and Mattapan, authorities said.

Harris and others developed hacking products that had names including Sigma, Blackcat, and DreamOS, that allowed computer users to get access to the Internet without paying for it, according to prosecutors.


He also offered products that let users disguise their online identities when downloading pirated movies, records show.

Yesterday, Harris posted a $250,000 unsecured bond and was permitted to remain free pending his sentencing, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. May 23, court records show.

Harris, who lists his current residence as Redmond, Ore., will be placed in home confinement and will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to the court filing.

“The Internet is an incredible resource that has transformed the way we conduct business,’’ US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said last night in a statement. “Unfortunately, it has also become a breeding ground for criminals. We will continue to prioritize the prosecution of those who wish to utilize our communication systems to conduct illegal activity and inflict harm on others.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.