By Paul McNamara
The communications director for Montana's lone congressman solicited the
services of two men he falsely believed to be criminally minded
hackers-for-hire -- with the expressed goal of jacking up his college
GPA -- during an exchange that spanned 22 e-mails over two weeks 
this past summer.
Todd Shriber, 28-year-old press aide to U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg,
R-Mont., e-mailed the security Web site attrition.org  on Aug. 9,
writing: "I need to urgently make contact with a hacker that would be
interested in doing a one-time job for me. The pay would be good. I'm
not sure what exactly the job would entail with respect to computer
jargon, but I can go into rough detail upon making contact with a
After initially denying knowledge of the exchange, Shriber told me this
afternoon in the final of our three phone conversations: "I did
something that's greatly out of character for me and it's a mistake that
Two members of attrition.org, "Lyger" and "Jericho" (a.k.a. "security
curmudgeon") corresponded with Shriber and fooled him into believing
that they would carry out his wishes, with Jericho warning him at one
point: "You are soliciting me to break the law and hack into a computer
across state lines. That is a federal offense and multiple felonies."
Shriber wanted Lyger and Jericho to break into the computer system at
Texas Christian University, from which he graduated in 2000.
In the final e-mail on Sunday, Aug. 27, Lyger tells Shriber that his
hacking attempts had been detected and "we are SO busted." He urges him
to "duck and run if you can" in an exaggerated, obscenity-filled -- and
completely fictional -- missive that put an end to their working
While the name Todd Shriber and a Yahoo address appear on the e-mail
string that has been posted at attrition.org since September -- the site
posts many of the oddball requests it gets, including some seeking
illegal services -- it was only today and after a bit of search-engine
work here that the person involved was identified as a congressional
aide. (Shriber did send Lyger a note in September asking that the
e-mails be removed from the site.)
Asked why he launched the scheme, Shriber told me, "I would rather not
get into that at all. I just got a little too far ahead of myself
thinking about things down the road." His college grades "weren't that
great," he acknowledged.
Shriber contends now that he "got cold feet" toward the culmination of
the hack that never happened and wanted out, although there is no
indication of second thoughts in any of the e-mail.
"A solicitation was made but no action was performed," he told me.
"These are people misrepresenting themselves for a laugh."
Lyger expresses little sympathy for a man who, after all, was willing to
pay others to commit a crime.
"You'll notice that we even intentionally redacted his Social Security
number and date of birth in one of the e-mails (on the site)," Lyger
told me in an e-mail this afternoon. "Pretty ironic that he even sent
them since we maintain a data-loss database, Web page, and mailing
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