Co-conspirator in computer-hacking case is sentenced to 8 months

A computer hacker was sentenced Monday to eight months in prison for his role in helping a Winchester resident known online as “KYAnonymous” compromise a website and get involved in a controversy surrounding a rape case in Steubenville, Ohio.

Noah McHugh, 26, of Alexandria, Va., had pleaded guilty in September to one charge of accessing a computer without authorization. Once he is released from prison, McHugh will serve four months of home detention, said defense attorney David H. Thomas of Columbus, Ohio.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj Gupta wrote in a sentencing memorandum that McHugh’s crime victimized a website owner by “groundlessly defaming him on his own website as a child pornographer and the director of a ‘rape crew,’” by posting his private emails for public view, and by locking him out of his own website so that he could not undo the hack.

McHugh’s case was related to charges against Deric Lostutter, who lived in Winchester in December 2012 when he allegedly took part in hacking into the computer of a man who ran a fan website for Steubenville High School athletics.

A few months earlier, two Steubenville High School football players had been charged with raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl. The case drew national attention in part for the role social media played in calling attention to the assault and the investigation.

Lostutter told the online site Gawker in 2013 that he was angry over the girl’s victimization and felt others, such as teens who had witnessed the crime and not reported it, should be held accountable.

However, the method he used to try to increase attention to the case violated federal law, a grand jury charged.

Lostutter, using the online identity KYAnonymous, and McHugh, using identity JustBatCat, agreed to hack into the Steubenville High fan site, according to court documents.

The object of the scheme was to get access to the email account of the person who ran the site, to “harass and intimidate” him and to gain attention of the online identities of Lostutter and McHugh, the grand jury charged.

McHugh admitted in the plea agreement that he created an account using a virtual private networking service to maintain his anonymity.

While exchanging messages with Lostutter, McHugh used online resources to find the name, email address and zip code of the administrator of the fan site, then used the information to guess the answer to the security question on the person’s email account.

McHugh reset the administrator’s password and accessed his account, and he and Lostutter read the emails.

Lostutter then sent McHugh an email with a link to a video, a written statement, and link to download the private emails of the administrator of the fan site, which included nude photos, McHugh’s plea agreement said.

McHugh posted the materials on the site at Lostutter’s direction, according to the plea document.

The separate federal indictment against Lostutter alleged that he made threats that he would disclose personal information on Steubenville High students and falsely claimed that the administrator of the fan site directed a “rape crew.”

The day after posting the video, McHugh redirected the fan site to a different internet host in a foreign country to keep the administrator from regaining control of it.

Lostutter pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to hack a website and lying to a FBI agent investigating the breach. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March.