In another damning incident of how many VPNs are actually quite willing to help the authorities, PIA or Private Internet Access has assisted the FBI in incriminating Ross M. Colby, who allegedly hacked into email accounts of the employees of Embarcadero Media and later caused five websites owned by the firm to go down momentarily.
Ross M. Cosby was in Massachusetts, at his father’s home, when the hack happened. These intrusions were definitely of a serious nature and if proven, could land R. Colby in to jail for two counts of felony and three counts of misdemeanor. But to prove them, the FBI team needed evidence which came in two primary forms, firstly the investigators found out from Embarcadero’s team that someone had gone into the firm’s internal networking structure and gotten hold on a file named “Things to Remember”.
This file contained the email addresses, passwords and other confidential details about the employees working at Embarcadero. Allegedly Ross Cosby used the information he gained from this file to access the email addresses of critically important employees from the IT department. He then used this unwarranted access to change or delist the names of registered websites owned by the company on GoDaddy.com, a domain hosting firm, making five websites like PaloAltoOnline.com go down for a day at the least.
The other piece of indicting evidence came in the form of a friend of Ross Cosby, who testified before court that Ross had told him earlier about the hacking himself and that he was paid a good amount to do the job. The witness, who didn’t wish to be named, told the court that at first he didn’t believe what Ross was saying because he had made similarly outrageous claims in the past as well.
But whatever the court’s final decision in this regard is, it showed everyone once again how many seemingly “Trustworthy” VPNs can be seemingly complicit in helping the authorities at the flip of a hat. PIA’s management told before the court that they did search in their database for the presence of two email addresses owned by Ross, through which he might have purchased an account with the provider, but they couldn’t find any. The FBI had provided them with these two email addresses after they were done with their investigation.
Ross had used PIA’s IP addresses to access the email accounts of Embarcadero’s employees tens of times, and despite PIA claiming that it doesn’t keep logs of any kind before court, the FBI still managed to sneak in and ascertain as to who was actually using PIA’s IP addresses.
It was Ross who they traced back the connections to. Ross had used two different locations to carry these hacks out of which the first place was his current residence in San Francisco while the second place was his father’s house in Massachusetts.
And although the defense attorney Nicki Young put forth a fierce fight in the face of adversity, there is little that now stands between Ross and jail time.
The proceedings will continue for a few more days at the San Jose Federal Courthouse before the judge makes his final call on the case involving a whole media group and a not-so-wily hacker.