When NEED, OPPORTUNITY and RATIONALIZATION all come together, it creates the PERFECT STORM for ethical people to make seriously unethical choices that have disastrous consequences. Such is the story of Barry Ardolf – computer hacker turned – “depraved criminal”according to prosecutors.
MOTIVE: Well it seems that Barry Ardolf was angry at his new neighbors. That’s when all hell broke lose. But it seems that Ardolf was smarter than the average bear…as he figured he’d make the neighbor’s lives a nightmare through his cyber attacks.
The bizarre tale began in 2009 when Matt and Bethany Kostolnik moved in the house next door to Ardolf, who at the time was a Medronic computer technician living in the Minneapolis suburb of Blaine. On their first day at their new home, the Kostolnik’s then-4-year-old son wandered near Ardolf’s house. While carrying him back next door, Ardolf allegedly kissed the boy on the lips.
“We’ve just moved next door to a pedophile,” Mrs. Kostolnik told her husband.
The couple reported Ardolf to the police, angering their creepy new neighbor. “I decided to ‘get even’ by launching computer attacks against him,” Ardolf later wrote in a letter to the judge.
“Barry Ardolf has demonstrated by his conduct that he is a dangerous man. When he became angry at his neighbors, he vented his anger in a bizarre and calculated campaign of terror against them,” prosecutor Timothy Rank said in a court filing. “And he did not wage this campaign in the light of day, but rather used his computer hacking skills to strike at his victims while hiding in the shadows.
“Over months and months, he inflicted unfathomable psychic damage, making the victims feel vulnerable in their own home, while avoiding detection.”
The CNN report goes on to state:
“It was apparently this incident which caused the defendant to begin a calculated campaign to terrorize his neighbors, doing whatever he could to destroy the careers and professional reputations of Matt and Bethany Kostolnik, to damage the Kostolniks’ marriage, and to generally wreak havoc on their lives,” he said.
Ardolf downloaded Wi-Fi hacking software and spent two weeks cracking the Kostolnik’s WEP encryption. Then he used their own Wi-Fi network to create a fake MySpace page for the husband, where he posted a picture of a pubescent girl having sex with two young boys. Under the “about me” section, he wrote:
“I bet my coworker that since I’m a lawyer and a darn great one that I could get away with putting up porn on my site here. I bet that all I have to do is say that there is plausible deniability since anybody could have put this on my site. Like someone hacked my page and added porn without my knowledge. This is reasonable doubt. I’m a darn good lawyer and I can get away with doing anything!”
Ardolf’s attorney, Kevin O’Brien, said in a telephone interview that “it was a lengthy sentence for a first-time offender.” The defendant also forfeited his house and computer gear.
He then e-mailed the same child porn to one of the husband’s co-workers, and sent flirtatious e-mail to women in Mr. Kostolnik’s office. “You are such a fox,” read one of the e-mails. He sent the message’s through the husband’s genuine e-mail account.
After the husband explained to his law office superiors that he had no idea what was happening, his bosses hired a law firm that examined his network and discovered that an “unknown” device had access to it. With Kostolnik’s permission, they installed a packet sniffer on his network to try and get to the bottom of the incidents.
Then, in May 2009, the Secret Service showed up at Kostolnik’s office to ask about several threatening e-mails sent from his Yahoo account, and traced to his IP address, that were addressed to Biden and other politicians. The subject line of one e-mail read: “This is a terrorist threat! Take this seriously.”
“I swear to God I’m going to kill you!,” part of the message to Biden said.
A forensics computer investigator working for Kostolnik’s law firm examined the packet logs, and found the e-mail sessions sending the threats. In the data surrounding the threatening traffic, they found traffic containing Ardolf’s name and Comcast account .
The FBI got a search warrant for Ardolf’s house and computer, and found reams of evidence, including copies of data swiped from the Kostolniks’ computer, and hacking manuals with titles such as Cracking WEP Using Backtrack: A Beginner’s Guide; Tutorial: Simple WEP Crack Aircracking and Cracking WEP with BackTrack 3 — Step-by-Step instructions. They also found handwritten notes laying out Ardolf’s revenge plans, and a cache of postal mail that Ardolf had apparently stolen from the Kostolniks’ mailbox and stashed under his bed.
The NEED was triggered by a kiss. The OPPORTUNITY was available by training. The RATIONALIZATION created out of revenge. The OUTCOME – an unexpected consequence?
Did Ardolf really think he could get by with this electronic attack? If you know Ardolf or the Kostolnik’s and care to comment on their experiences feel free to comment. YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!