Inmates Hide Self-Built Computers and Abuse Staff Credentials to Surf the Web

Prison staff in Ohio came across a rather interesting discovery recently. As it turns out, two inmates who were responsible for dismantling and recycling old PCs – as part of the prison work program – successfully managed to build new computers out of these used parts. They then went on to hide the machines in the ceiling of a training room. A rather interesting story, to say the least.

Inmates Know How To Build PCs

It is worth noting this story dates back to 2015, yet for some unknown reason, the information has only been made public now. Two inmates in an Ohio prison facility successfully built two computers from discarded parts. Accessing these materials was quite easy since they were both parts of a prison work program responsible for dismantling and recycling old computers.

The investigation into this matter started when one of the prison contractor’s accounts showed high levels of internet activity. Every single contractor account has a volume cap per day, yet this particular account saw its volume getting exceeded at least once. The Marion Correctional institution’s IT staff found it worth investigating, and it turned out there was a lot more to this story than first assumed.

What was of particular interest was how the contractor account was used when the person in question was not scheduled for work that day. Additionally, the person using it tried to access file-sharing sites, all of which are blocked by the prison network’s server. They went on to try and circumvent this blockade with little to no success.

Once the IT staff was able to find the source of the network traffic, they stumbled upon an internet cable leading up into the ceiling of a training room. It turns out there were two computers hidden in the ceiling, both of which were assembled from discarded parts due to be recycled. This goes to show the people who built these devices were all too aware of what they were doing.

Once the machines were both confiscated, the prison launched a thorough investigation of the machines themselves. It turns out there was quite a lot of useful data on these computers, including records of passes issued to inmates. It is unclear how the inmates managed to access this particular data or the contractor’s account used to connect to the internet, though.

Moreover, the two computers were also used to download pornography – no surprise there – articles about making drugs – not entirely surprising – and stolen credit cards. It is unclear if these cards were purchased from the Internet, and if so, how they were paid for. It does not appear there is any connection to bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies often used for making payments on the deep web, though.

All of this goes to show that prison work programs can help inmates earn some money for commissary, but they also create opportunities for more covert operations. Building computers from discarded scrap is not something everyone is capable of doing, yet additional security checks will need to be performed in these workplaces. It is possible this is just a standalone incident, although it wouldn’t surprise anyone if other inmates have similar ideas.

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