Tech by VICE

Cybersecurity Expert Caught in FBI Mass Hack Gets Two Days Jail Time

Brian Haller was caught as part of the FBI's takeover of child pornography site Playpen.

by Joseph Cox
Apr 11 2016, 1:18pm

Image: Shutterstock

The Department of Justice has charged at least 137 people in the US with child pornography related crimes, after the FBI used a hacking tool to identify visitors of a large site on the so-called dark web. Many of those people are facing years in prison.

One person caught has avoided any serious jail time altogether though: Brian Haller, a former cybersecurity employee at Booz Allen Hamilton who himself has ties to the government. Haller was sentenced on Friday to time served—two days and one night, according to court documents and local media reports.

Haller pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography, court documents state. Haller was also sentenced to 10 years of supervised release, in which his computer will undergo constant monitoring (except devices that are used as part of his employment), and he was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000.

"We see a lot of […] good people who've done bad things," Judge Robert Byran said from the bench, according to a local report.

Up until his arrest in July 2015, Haller was the President of the Washington chapter of InfraGard, "the FBI's public-private partnership dedicated to critical infrastructure protection," reads Haller's LinkedIn profile. As part of this, Haller had access to a "secure FBI online platform and email system," reports Seattle Pi.

Haller had also worked at Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior consultant and an associate, as well as cybersecurity company NCC Group.

Haller isn't the only one caught by the FBI's mass hack with links to government. David Tippens reportedly served as a combat engineer in the US Army, and Richard Armendariz, a former Homeland Security analyst was also allegedly identified by the FBI's hacking tool.

These cases all stem from the takeover of child pornography site Playpen. For 13 days, the FBI ran Playpen from a government facility in Virginia, and deployed a network investigative technique (NIT). This NIT, after circumventing the protections offered by the Tor Browser, grabbed Playpen visitors' IP and MAC address, as well as other technical information.