“ECE hacker” pleads guilty to charge of computer fraud

Daniel Beckwitt, known as the “ECE hacker", entered a guilty plea to a Class 3 felony count of computer fraud on Monday morning. Beckwitt originally pleaded not guilty to seven charges. With the help of his lawyer, Tom Bruno, he reached a plea agreement with Assistant State’s Attorney Matt Banach, for the state to drop the other six charges.

Beckwitt was found guilty and will serve 24 months probation. He has to pay more than $2,000 in fees and court costs, as well as $22,793.32 in restitution to the University.

Judge Heidi Ladd said Beckwitt, between November and December 2012, knowingly obtained use of a computer with the intent of devising a scheme used for deception, by placing keyloggers on keyboards at Everitt Laboratory.

Banach said police found packing boxes at Beckwitt’s residence that matched the keyloggers found at Everitt laboratory. The boxes were addressed to one of Beckwitt’s aliases. The data obtained by the University’s CITES department contained files from the keyloggers placed by Beckwitt. Some of this data included sensitive information, like usernames and passwords.

By using the sensitive information, Beckwitt hacked another student’s email account, which caused the student whose account was hacked to suffer an academic integrity violation. The hacking also caused cancellation of a final exam.

Bruno said the restitution is mainly for “reimbursing the U of I for fixing the problem.”

“Fixing the problem” meant recovering and analyzing data generated by the hacking. Banach said CITES was able to provide results of the investigation fairly quickly.

“The CITES department was pretty quick and responsive about doing their investigation and providing that info,” Banach said. “There’s always a lot of details to cover in this type of investigation and they responded very well to the demands of the case.”

Beckwitt said he plans to return to school at some point, but needs to deal with several health issues, including severe anxiety, before he can consider going back to school.

Janelle can be reached at jnodea2@dailyillini.com.