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Man gets 18 years in jail for hacking neighbour's Wi-Fi

14 Jul 2011

A man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after hacking his neighbour's home internet service and waging an online hate campaign after a disagreement when they moved in.

Barry Ardolf, 46, of Blaine, Minnesota, fell out with his neighbours Matt and Bethany Kostolnik in 2008 after they reported him to the police for kissing their four year-old son. The family had their car tyres slashed shortly afterwards but then Ardolf took his revenge online.

Using script kiddie hacking kits downloaded from the internet, Ardolf spent two weeks trying attacks against the Kostolnik's WEP-encrypted router before gaining access to their Qwest account. He then accessed Matt Kostolnik's Yahoo account and sent flirtatious emails to two of his co-workers and child pornography to his boss, as well as putting the images on a MySpace page.

He then set up a fake account for a local woman and sent another email to Kostolnik's bosses alleging a sexual attack. To send the email Ardolf hacked two more of his neighbour's Wi-Fi accounts, presumably to try to cover his tracks.

After Kostolnik's employers, legal firm Moss & Barnett, confronted him about the emails he asked for an investigation and a packet sniffer was installed on the family's home PC.

However, while this was ongoing US Secret Service agents showed up at Kostolnik's office wanting to question him about threatening emails sent to vice president Joe Biden, the Governor of Minnesota, and a senator from Minnesota.

"This is a terrorist threat! Take this seriously. I hate the way you people are spending money you don't have... I'm assigning myself to be judge, jury and executioner," the email stated, according to court documents.

"Since you folks have spent what you don't have, it's time to pay the ultimate price. Time for new officials after you all are put to death by us."

As numerous cases have shown, the Secret Service is one of the most tech-savvy law enforcement bodies out there and forensic investigators soon found details of Ardolf's activities and his Comcast account details.

A search of his home found hacking manuals and copies of the threatening correspondence on a thumb drive in Ardolf's bedroom, as well as plans to send emails to Bethany Kostolnik claiming her husband had got another woman pregnant.

Agents also found personal information on Ardolf's previous neighbours, including social security numbers. The neighbours said they had suffered multiple vandalism attacks since falling out with Ardolf, and police found evidence that he was still harassing them after they had moved.

Ardolf initially agreed to a plea bargain with a likely sentence of two years in jail, but then fired his lawyer and pleaded not guilty. Police also found evidence that he broke his bail conditions, tried to coach friends and family on evidence and contacted the press with misinformation.

In response the prosecutors added additional identify theft and child pornography charges to his docket, and requested he be sent down for nearly 25 years.

"Barry Ardolf is a dangerous man. As he has amply demonstrated, he uses his technical skills to cause harm and avoid getting caught," court documents state.

"Based on his actions, there is every reason to believe that when Barry Ardolf is released from prison at the end of his term of commitment, he will do something like this again to someone else who has angered him, only this time he will be even more careful. The only way to prevent that is to incarcerate the defendant for a very long time."

The court sent Ardolf down for 18 years and put him on the sex offenders register.

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Iain Thomson

Iain Thomson is the US editor of based in San Francisco. Iain has been a part of the team since 2002 and was previously technical editor of PC Magazine, reviews editor of PC Advisor and editor of Aviation Informatics. He also appears as an occasional commentator on BBC television and radio, ITV and Bloomberg.



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