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Prison inmates built secret PCs and successfully connected to the internet

Why it matters to you

This bold attempt to gain unrestricted PC access should demonstrate why correctional facilities need well-trained, highly observant IT staff.

The Ohio Inspector General’s Office has published a report detailing a very unusual PC build. Two inmates at the Marion Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio apparently managed to¬†build two computers and connect them to the prison’s network.

Suspicions were raised in July 2015, when the facility’s IT staff received an email about a contractor’s PC exceeding its daily internet access quota. This wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary, but the contractor in question only worked Monday through Thursday, and the alert came in on a Friday, according to a report from Tripwire.

Another alert came in two weeks later, at which point it seemed that the user was attempting to access proxy avoidance websites. Upon further investigation, it emerged that the computer wasn’t one of the known computers available for use in the prison’s PC training area.

At this point, a member of the facility’s IT support staff found a mysterious cable, and followed it to see what it was hooked up to. It led to the ceiling, and upon removing a couple of tiles, the staff member discovered a hidden pair of PCs resting on pieces of plywood.

The inmates were apparently using these computers for more than just browsing Facebook and watching videos on YouTube. As well as viewing pornography and downloading software, the PCs were apparently used to access guides on making drugs and explosives, steal the identity of a fellow inmate, and even commit tax fraud.

A total of five inmates have been¬†found to be involved with the exploit, and as a result they have been moved to other institutions. Ohio Inspector General Randall J. Meyer compared the outlandish scenario to an episode of prisoner-of-war sitcom Hogan’s Heroes in an interview with a local ABC affiliate.