On April 15, 2011, a woman created the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org and began using that account and others to send e-mails to University of Alabama students representing that the message was from the University of Alabama Housing Department.
She sent the e-mails to about 60 students, many of them her friends or acquaintances, asking that they reply with their “My Bama” university account username and password. More than 40 students provided that information.
The woman used the information she collected with her phishing e-mails to access at least 25 user accounts in July and August 2013. By doing so, she accessed information from a protected computer for the purpose of illegally obtaining money from federal and state student loan funds belonging to Alabama students.
Rerouting money to her accounts
She tried to get the money by changing direct bank deposit information for seven accounts and reroute those students’ loan funds to Green Dot reloadable money cards she controlled.
Two of her attempts were successful and she transferred $9,598 to a Green Dot card she registered in the name of a student whose personal identifying information she had obtained without permission. She also used that same student’s information to establish a Western Union account.
The hacker got $1,001 in cash from the Green Dot card through an ATM withdrawal and a Western Union transfer. The University of Alabama was able to freeze the account before more money was removed.
Agreed to pay restitution
After an investigation by university police and others, Briana Jackson, 22, of Childersburg, Alabama, was charged with unauthorized access to a protected computer. Jackson admitted the criminal activity and agreed to plead guilty to the charge and pay $9,598 in restitution.
The maximum sentence for accessing a protected computer is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Breaches in computer security are a fact of life in today’s Internet world and quick response to an intrusion is imperative to minimize the damage,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance. “An alert and committed investigator in the University of Alabama Police Department, working with the FBI, prevented large financial loss in this case and led to the charges and plea agreement with the defendant,” she said.