It took nearly three years, but Seattle police detectives say they've unraveled a theft ring that operated both in cyberspace and through old-fashioned burglaries with a technological twist — breaking into a company with the sole purpose of installing malicious software to enable future thefts.
Federal prosecutors have indicted three men — Joshua Allen Witt, 34; Brad Eugene Lowe, 36; and John Earl Griffin, 36 — on charges of conspiracy and eight other counts including accessing a protected computer to further fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The 20-page indictment lays out a scheme that U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan on Wednesday said was "both sophisticated and rudimentary," and combined high technology with broken glass and jimmied locks.
The trio is accused of targeting at least 53 companies, with losses expected to mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"In some cases, the victims were both burgled and cyber-burgled," Durkan said at a news conference.
The indictment accused the men of "wardriving" — cruising in a vehicle outfitted with a powerful Wi-Fi receiver to detect business wireless networks. They then would hack into the company's network from outside, cracking the security code and accessing company computers and information.