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Texas hacker caught

A 20-year-old University of Texas student from Houston faced federal charges Friday for hacking into the university's computer system and stealing Social Security numbers of 55,000 students, faculty and staff. Christopher Andrew Phillips, a computer science major, is charged with unauthorized access to a protected computer and using someone else's identification with intent to commit a federal crime.

Phillips told Secret Service agents on March 5 that he had written and executed a computer program that could access a university Web site and its database, according to an affidavit signed by Special Agent Clarke Skoby. The program entered sequential Social Security numbers at a rate of 36,000 to 72,000 per hour and then gathered personal information related to successful hits.

"Although we're not 100 percent sure, we feel fairly confident that we've recovered all the information and names and Social Security numbers that were stolen from the database, and they were not used for any criminal or nefarious purposes," said Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. Phillips, who has no prior criminal history, was released on his personal recognizance by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Capelle. A condition of his release bars him from using computers. A young man answering the telephone at Phillips' residence on campus said Phillips was not home and would be unlikely to return phone calls.

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