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The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the indictment of Engineering junior Ryan Goldstein yesterday for his alleged involvement in a global computer-hacking conspiracy.

Goldstein was arrested Nov. 1 and charged with computer-fraud conspiracy, to which he pled not guilty. He was released on a $10,000 bond and is still attending classes.

The Bioengineering major allegedly helped a New Zealand hacker nicknamed "AKILL" carry out computer attacks by using a fellow student's username and password to gain access to a University server.

The investigation of Goldstein was triggered by a suspicious crash of the School of Engineering's server in February 2006 that denied service to 4,000 students, faculty and staff members.

"I believe the charges are exaggerated, and beyond that, I have no further comment," said Ronald Levine, Goldstein's lawyer.

New Zealand detectives are currently investigating an 18-year-old they believe to be AKILL - the ring leader of a "small but elite" group that installed malware on 1.3 million computers worldwide, according to a press release from the New Zealand Police.

Malware can gain control of unsuspecting computers and be used for sending spam, identity theft or denial of service attacks.

An investigation is ongoing, and FBI agents have already indicted two other people with links to AKILL.

The case is part of the FBI's recent nationwide crackdown on computer crime, called Operation Bot Roast II, which has uncovered more than $20 million in economic loss with more than one million victimized computers, FBI special agent J.J. Klaver said.

Following the 2006 Engineering school server crash, University technicians discovered that current Engineering junior Amanda Dyson's school account had been logged into 57,958 times in four days, with 13,289 failed attempts from computers in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent and computer-crimes specialist Jason Stroud.

"It's been likened to trying to drink from a fire hose," Klaver said. "You can shut down entire computer network by flooding it with input."

The user then downloaded unusual files onto the Penn server.

Log-in records showed that the same account had been accessed from Goldstein's King's Court-English College House dorm room, as well as his home in Ambler, Pa.

The affidavit also reported that Goldstein told AKILL, "I have access to a lot of stuff you might want. I have a legit login/pass, guaranteed to work through 2007 at least."

The two are suspected to have met in an online chat group.

University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said no disciplinary action has yet been taken against Goldstein.

Dyson, whose username was used in the attack, said she worked with Goldstein as an Information Technology Assistant at the time in King's Court but never gave him her username or password.

She did not know he was allegedly responsible for hacking into her computer or that charges had been filed against him until yesterday.

"I got the impression he was really good with computers. We would talk about cases and how to solve them," Dyson said. "I didn't think of him as somebody who would do something like that."

Engineering junior Kevin Rakszawski, who worked with Goldstein this semester on two group presentations for a class entitled "Ethics, Social and Professional Responsibility for Engineers," said he was also surprised to hear of the indictment.

"He's pretty low-key. He's very nice," Rakszawski said. "I would have never guessed it."

Goldstein's trial is scheduled for March. If he is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a $250,000 fine.

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