By JIM SMITH
smithjm @ phillynews.com
Nov. 18, 2005
Federal authorities contend that a computer hacker disrupted his
former employer's relief work after the Indian Ocean tsunamis that
The alleged hacker, Nicholas Giovanni, who had worked as a "Webmaster"
for International SOS Assistance Inc., a private firm headquartered in
Trevose, Bucks County, yesterday was charged with "computer intrusion"
by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia.
Giovanni, a former New Jersey resident, "chose to launch an attack [on
his former employer's computer] during one of the worst natural
disasters in the history of civilization," said U.S. Attorney Patrick
L. Meehan, announcing the new criminal case.
"Because of his actions, people who were reaching out for help via the
Internet couldn't get it," the area's top federal lawman added.
Meehan said the company "is set up so people" in a disaster zone "can
access vital medical-assistance information online.
"You had people in the midst of an unimaginable catastrophe
desperately seeking online information and not being able to get it
because the system was down," added Meehan.
Giovanni had worked for the victimized firm as a "senior developer and
Webmaster" for about five years, until Nov. 9, 2004.
He lost his job just weeks before the deadly wave struck.
Before his termination, he allegedly created a "Trojan Horse" in the
company's computer system.
This enabled him to secretly access the system before and after his
dismissal, when he moved to California, according to the grand jury
Before the tsunami struck, Giovanni "altered the main SOS Web site,
adding a 'skull and crossbones' graphic to the upper left corner of
the page," the indictment charged.
The day the tsunami struck, drowning victims from Somalia to Thailand,
he allegedly "completely disabled access to the vital functions of the
SOS Web site," the grand jury noted.
The company got its Web site up and running quickly, but had to spend
more than $100,000 to unravel the hacker's handiwork, according to the
Giovanni, 37, of Dublin, Calif., and his San Francisco lawyer, Ed
Swanson, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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