Former UI student charged with computer fraud, criminal damage to property

URBANA — A former University of Illinois engineering student from Maryland is due back in court in February after he was charged on Tuesday in connection with allegedly tampering with campus email accounts, damaging locks at one computer lab and installing “key loggers” on keyboards at another engineering building to access sensitive information.

Daniel Beckwitt, 21, who listed an address in Bethesda, Md., was charged on Tuesday with one count of criminal damage to government supported property, two counts of computer fraud, one count of forgery and one count of possession of a firearm without a FOID card.

When Beckwitt asked for more time to hire an attorney, Judge Richard Klaus scheduled Beckwitt’s next court appearance for Feb. 5.

According to a police report, locks were damaged at the Coordinated Science Lab, 1308 W. Main St., U, on Nov. 6 and Dec. 14. Someone got inside the building and sprayed a super-glue-like substance with metal chips into multiple interior and exterior locks, making them inoperable.

After the first incident, an email was sent out from a professor’s account with information about the vandalism, but the professor hadn’t written the email, according to the report.

Then, earlier this month, investigators found key loggers attached to three keyboards in two computer labs at Everitt Lab, 104 S. Wright St., U.

Key loggers can record all the keys a user presses, thereby recording his or her passwords to bank accounts, email or other information.

Investigators were able to identify Beckwitt by checking websites and blogs about computer security, then linked that information with two other incidents at his apartment last spring.

Someone claiming to be the “ECE hacker” posted information about the hacking at the Coordinated Science Lab on Reddit, a social news and entertainment site.

On other sites, investigators found someone using the alias “Skunkworks” who talked about hacking teaching-assistant accounts.

They then found videos and photos online where Beckwitt was identified as “Skunkworks.”

After police were able to get a search warrant last week for Beckwitt’s house in the 400 block of West Elm Street in Urbana, they went there on Friday afternoon and seized all the electronic devices from the home — cellphones, laptops, tablets, notepads, etc. — including those belonging to the other five residents there.

Police also seized packing material in the house that appears to be from the key loggers found on the keyboards at Everitt Lab, police said.

Beckwitt was then arrested Friday evening on campus.

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