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NY Teen Pair Charged In MySpace Extortion Plot

The two hacked into MySpace.com and allegedly threatened to release new exploit code unless MySpace came up with $150,000.
Two New York men were arrested in Los Angeles and charged with trying to extort $150,000 from the popular social networking site MySpace.com, prosecutors announced Wednesday. If convicted, they face prison time.

Shaun Harrison, 18, and Saverio Mondelli,19, both from Long Island's Suffolk County, allegedly hacked MySpace by exploiting a service vulnerability that let them steal users' personal information. MySpace discovered the intrusion, and went to the joint local and federal task force in L.A. that is in charge of investigating computer crimes.

During that investigation, Harrison and Mondelli supposedly threatened to release new exploit code unless MySpace came up with $150,000. The two New Yorkers traveled to California Friday to meet with MySpace employees, but were met instead by undercover agents from the U.S. Secret Service and the L.A. district attorney's office, who arrested them in the sting.

They were arraigned Wednesday and remain in custody, the district attorney's office said in a statement. A preliminary hearing is set for June 5.

Each has been charged with two felony counts of illegal computer access and one count of sending a threatening letter for extortion and attempted extortion. If convicted on all charges, Harrison and Mondelli face more than 4 years in prison.

Extortion isn't unusual in cyber crime, but it's typically connected with threats to launch a denial-of-service (DoS) attack against a company's Web site. This is one of the first known cases where hackers allegedly threatened to develop exploit code.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing