The movies and the news show that it is relatively common for prisoners to secretly dig tunnels to escape. This case, however, is very unconventional because it involves prisoners who have built two computers in jail, with access to the internet and all.
The event took place at the Marion Correctional Institution in the state of Ohio in the United States. Suspicions began even in July 2015, thanks to the identification of some computers connected to the prison network that extrapolated the daily limit of Internet consumption.
A report released this week from the Ohio Office of the Inspector General detailed the actions of Scott Spriggs and Adam Johnston at Marion Correctional Institution in 2015. The men worked in the prison on a program that provided inmate labor to disassemble old computers and recycle the parts. Tipped off by a suspicious excess in data usage on the prison’s computer network, officials discovered the men had built two computers using parts they had stolen and hidden in the ceiling of a closet.
So far almost eveything “normal”, except that the machine only hits Monday through Thursday, with the notice being issued already on Friday. In addition, another fact that aroused the interest of IT staff was the identification that the machines tried to use proxy services to circumvent network locks. The hard drives were loaded with pornography, a Windows proxy server, VPN, VOIP and anti-virus software, the Tor browser, password hacking and e-mail spamming tools, and the open source packet analyzer Wireshark.
The next step was to identify the machine from which these accesses originated, a PC used in the training area of the prison. An IT professional found a mysterious cable and decided to follow it physically to see where it was plugged in. To his surprise, the thread went through a hole in the ceiling and, when removing some bricks, it was possible to find two computers hidden on a table made of plywood.
Internet for everyone
Investigation carried out by the prison administration found that detainees used the machines to surf the web. In addition to accessing social networks and YouTube, they also visited pornographic sites as well as downloading software. Even searches on how to make drugs and explosives, commit tax fraud, and even steal another prisoner’s identity were carried out by the expert prisoners.
Altogether, five prisoners were charged with involvement in the “project”. They were all transferred to other institutions. It surprised me that the inmates had the ability to not only connect these computers to the state’s network but had the ability to build these computers. They were able to travel through the institution more than 1,100 feet without being checked by security through several check points, and not a single correction’s staff member stopped them from transporting these computers into the administrative portion of the building.
Meyer’s report was sent to local prosecutors for review.
In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said it has “already taken steps to address some areas of concern” and that it “will thoroughly review the reports and take any additional steps necessary to prevent these types of things from happening again.