A Lauded Prison Recycling Program Became a Hacker's Dream

3 refurbished computers hidden in ceiling of Marion Correctional Institute
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2017 6:00 AM CDT
Stock image   (Getty Images/DanHenson1)

(Newser) – Three computers hidden in the ceiling above a closet in a staff computer lab in Marion Correctional Institution gave inmates access to the Ohio prison's network, databases, tools for creating security passes, and the outside world. “Our inmates are way smarter than our technical people, you know,” one state investigator admitted after the computers were discovered. “So we’ve got a huge problem there.” The Verge has a deep look at how at least one inmate turned a highly touted prison recycling program into a conduit for hacking and credit card fraud.

It started when IT staff at the prison noticed a volunteer's network login was exceeding its usage and visiting flagged sites—even on days when that volunteer wasn't at the prison. Staff traced a mess of wires, a few of which led into the ceiling and revealed three hidden computers. Adam Johnston, who had received computer training in prison and sorted electronics for the recycling program, admitted to stashing the refurbished computers in the ceiling and using them to apply for credit cards in the names of his fellow prisoners. Prison being prison, Johnston also allegedly used the computers to download pornography and pirated films to thumb drives, which were passed around by inmates. Now, Johnston is facing the prospect of new criminal charges while apologizing to a fellow inmate for having ruined his life. Read the full story here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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