Arizona man pleads guilty in cyberattack on emergency, government systems

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PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona man pleaded guilty Monday to a hacking charge in a cyberattack two years ago that authorities said interrupted communications equipment for emergency workers in Madison, Wisconsin.

Randall Charles Tucker, 22, of Apache Junction pleaded guilty to intentionally damaging protected computers in the March 2015 attack in Madison. His plea deal calls for a sentence of up to four years in prison.

He also was charged with hacking into municipal computer systems two years ago in two Phoenix suburbs, Chandler and Mesa, and attacking the Washington, D.C.-based News2Share site in December 2014. The charges stemming from the attacks in Arizona and on the news site were dropped as part of the plea deal.

Tucker acknowledged in court that he launched the Madison attack from his home in Arizona. The attack flooded a firewall router with traffic, causing it to fail.

Authorities said it temporarily disabled access to the city’s website and caused internet-connected communication equipment used by emergency workers to become inaccessible or degraded. The automatic dispatching system for emergency workers was crippled, and other emergency workers experienced problems in connecting to a 911 center.

Tucker later bragged about the attack on social media under his nickname “Bitcoin Baron.”

Magistrate Judge Bridget Bade asked Tucker if his statements in court about the Madison attack were true.

“Yes, your honor,” he answered.

The attack came three days after a white Madison police officer fatally shot Tony Robinson, a 19-year-old biracial man, during an altercation in an apartment building stairwell.

The shooting put the police department under intense scrutiny and sparked days of protests. The officer was eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing. The indictment against Tucker doesn’t mention the shooting.

Less than a week after the Madison hack, authorities say Tucker launched an attack on city websites in Mesa and Chandler that temporarily made them inaccessible to users.

He also was accused of attacking the Washington, D.C.-based News2Share site in late 2014 after it failed to run a video he had provided. The video’s contents weren’t publicly revealed.