Tumwater man accused of hacking into Comcast e-mails, voicemails

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 24, 2009 at 8:09 PM

TACOMA, Wash. - A 20-year-old Internet ad broker is accused of hacking into cable giant Comcast, intercepting e-mails and voicemails from millions of customers.

But did poor customer service from Comcast compound the problem?

Leaving federal court today, James Black Jr. says he didn't do it. But prosecutors are sure he did.

They say in May 2008 Black and two others used their hacking skills to redirect Comcast customers who were trying to access their e-mail and voicemail accounts.

Instead of reading their e-mails, as many as 5 million customers were greeted with a message bragging about the hack.

Prosecutors say Black and his cronies actually tricked Comcast workers into providing them the information that allowed the attack.

Investigators say the group then called Comcast to report what they'd done.

But published reports indicate a Comcast manager hung up on them and then the attack escalated further.

Comcast isn't commenting on that.

Kathryn Warma, Assistant U.S. Attorney, believes the hack was most likely motivated by bragging rights, pride, and ego.

"They wanted people to know about their hacking group," she said.

Investigators say Black uses the screen name "defiant," but they tell us now it's more like "compliant" - cooperating with federal authorities as he hopes to avoid a strict sentence.

Meantime what may have started as a simple Internet prank could now land Black in federal prison for 5 years and be fined $250,000.

A Comcast spokesman says no private account information was compromised in the attack.

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