Hospital Hacker 'GhostExodus' Sentenced To 9 Years

Contract security guard installed malware on sensitive hospital systems to attack the Anonymous hacking collective.

Mathew J. Schwartz, Contributor

March 22, 2011

2 Min Read

10 Massive Security Breaches

10 Massive Security Breaches

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Slideshow: 10 Massive Security Breaches

Hack a hospital, go to jail: On Thursday, Jesse William McGraw, 26, of Arlington, Texas, was sentenced in federal court to 110 months in jail, followed by three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered McGraw to pay $31,881.75 in restitution to the hospital groups affected by his attacks.

McGraw, also known as GhostExodus, was the self-proclaimed head of the Electronik Tribulation Army.

In June 2009, McGraw -- then working as a contract, night-shift security guard at a Dallas hospital -- was arrested for breaking into multiple computers, including the hospital's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, as well as computers containing confidential patient information.

In May 2010, McGraw pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with two counts of transmitting malicious code. Federal law enforcement officials said that he admitted to using the Ophcrack Windows password cracker to access the systems, and then installing malicious botnet code, allowing him to remotely access the systems, in preparation for launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

James T. Jacks, the Northern District of Texas U.S. attorney, said in a statement that "McGraw admitted that he intended to use the bots and the compromised computers to launch DDoS attacks on the Web sites of rival hacker groups." Interestingly, McGraw's rival was the hacker collective known as Anonymous, more lately known for its defense of Wikileaks.

Authorities said McGraw's undoing was that he detailed his hospital system break-ins (which began in April 2009), as well as plans for his future attack, in videos that he uploaded to YouTube. In those missives, he urged other hackers to join him in launching DDoS attacks against Anonymous.

According to the Dallas Observer, the videos were spotted by a Mississippi State University computer student, Wesley McGrew, who happened "to work as a research assistant at the university's Critical Infrastructure Protection Center." He alerted the FBI to the videos, which arrested McGraw before he launched any DDoS attacks using hospital computers.

About the Author(s)

Mathew J. Schwartz


Mathew Schwartz served as the InformationWeek information security reporter from 2010 until mid-2014.

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