PITTSBURGH (AP) — An Ohio man will plead guilty to sending anonymous YouTube threats in which he claimed to have hacked into the University of Pittsburgh's computer system on the heels of a series of unrelated disruptive bomb threats, his attorney told The Associated Press.
Brett Hudson will admit he's guilty "and he's going to get on with his life," defense attorney Warner Mariani said.
Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, is scheduled to enter the plea Oct. 17 in federal court. He and Alexander Waterland, 24, of Loveland, Ohio, were indicted in August on a charge of conspiring to commit interstate extortion using a computer. The FBI says the men claimed to be members of the hacking group Anonymous who had obtained confidential computer information on students and faculty.
Waterland has pleaded not guilty and his attorney didn't immediately return a call Tuesday. Online court records indicate he still plans to contest the charge at trial.
Neither man is charged in connection with the bomb threats — which were first scrawled on men's room stalls and later emailed to the school or local media outlets — in the weeks before the hacker threats surfaced in late April.
"We are anonymous! We are Legion!" said one email threat which purported to have some of the stolen information attached to it. "We are your brothers & sisters! We are the students and faculty of Pitt! We are your worst nightmare! The internet is here! You Will now Expect US!"
The Ohio men both worked as computer technicians for Express Scripts, an online prescription drug company in Mason, Ohio, when the hacking threats were made. Mariani said both have lost their jobs.
Mariani wouldn't say if Hudson is cooperating with authorities or plans to testify against Waterland. U.S. Attorney David Hickton said only, "We will comment in court at the appropriate time."
The charge carries a maximum five-year prison term, though Mariani said federal guidelines dictate a sentence of about 18 months.
Mariani said Hudson will acknowledge working with Waterland to send the threats, but he said Hudson didn't realize how serious the situation was until after he was caught.
"I just think they came up with, 'Hey, that'd be cool, huh?' and then it became, 'Let's do this, let's do that,'" Mariani said.
"There certainly was no ideology or anything behind it," he said, despite the tone of the messages.
Although Pitt officials later determined their computer information was never hacked, the threats claimed it was.
Using the "Anonymous" moniker, the suspects threatened to publicize the information unless Chancellor Mark Nordenberg apologized for not safeguarding students whose information was allegedly stolen.
The hacking threats were received just as the university has finished dealing with bomb threats that plagued the campus since February, causing some students to stay off campus, canceling classes, and prompting dozens of building evacuations.
Although not directly related, investigators believe the hacking threats were meant to capitalize on the unease created by the bomb threats.
Officials are still investigating the bomb threats scrawled in the campus rest rooms, but have indicted a self-styled internet hoaxer, 64-year-old Adam Stuart Busby, of Dublin, Ireland, on charges he sent the emailed bomb threats.
Busby, a founder of the Scottish National Liberation Army, an outlawed militant group, remains in an Irish prison on charges he threatened to poison the water supply of some English cities and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2010. He's not expected to face the Pitt charges until the foreign charges are resolved.