By Bill Bowden
A lawyer representing three Fort Smith police officers in a whistleblower case said Monday that someone tried to hack into his computer by giving him an external hard drive contaminated with malicious software.
Matthew Campbell of the Pinnacle Law Firm in North Little Rock has been representing three current and former Fort Smith police officers in the lawsuit since January 2014.
Campbell had requested emails from the Fort Smith Police Department, and Sebastian County Circuit Judge James O. Cox ordered on May 9, 2014, that they be provided to Campbell as part of discovery in the case.
Campbell said he became suspicious when Douglas Carson, the attorney representing Fort Smith and its Police Department, sent him the computer hard drive in June 2014 by Federal Express. Normally, Campbell said, the defendants had provided him with requested documents via email, the U.S. Postal Service or through a cloud-based Internet storage service.
Campbell said he sent the hard drive to his information technology expert, Geoff Mueller of Austin, Texas, who is manager of information security at the Lower Colorado River Authority.
"Something didn't add up in the way they approached it, so I sent it to my software guy first," Campbell said. "I thought 'I'm not plugging that into my computer,' so I sent it to him to inspect."
Mueller told Campbell the hard drive contained four "Trojans," one of which was a duplicate.
Trojans are programs that appear legitimate but perform some illicit activity when run, according to PC Magazine.
"One would have kept my Internet active even if I tried to turn it off, one would have stolen any passwords that I entered in, and the other would have allowed the installation of other malicious software," Campbell said. "It's not like these are my only clients, either. I've got all my client files in my computer. I don't know what they were looking for, but just the fact that they would do it is pretty scary."
In an affidavit filed with the motion Friday, Mueller stated: "Upon informing Mr. Campbell of the presence of these Trojans, he provided me with information that the Fort Smith Police Department claimed to be running a secure system with real-time virus and malware protection. In my experience, if the FSPD system is actually as described, these Trojans would not exist on the system."
Mueller said the placement of the Trojans in a subfolder named "D:Bales Court Order," and not in the root directory, "means the Trojans were not already on the external hard drive that was sent to Mr. Campbell and were more likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell's computer while also stealing passwords to his account."
Campbell said he doesn't know who put the malware on the hard drive provided to him.