SUSAN GALLAGHER Associated Press Writer HELENA
Todd Shriber wasn’t seeking a 4.0 when he inquired online about having his college grades changed by hackers. The press aide fired by Montana’s U.S. House member four days before Christmas wanted only a grade-point-average “adjustment,” he said in an email, for a better shot at graduate school. Now his record is blemished and Rep. Denny Rehberg, Rmont., is in the market for a new communications director. Shriber was fired after trying to have his college records inflated with the help of two people posing online as expert computer hackers, Rehberg’s chief of staff said Friday. Erik Iverson said dismissal came after Shriber informed him of a pending article, on the Internet, detailing Shriber’s desire to have his Texas Christian University records altered. Shriber’s e-mail communication with the people he thought were hackers during a two-week span last summer reinforced his belief that they were available to criminally inflate his grades, NetworkWorld.com reported Thursday. That is the same day Shriber lost the Rehberg job he’d held for about a year. Shriber, 28, declined to comment Friday. “He’s a good guy,” Iverson said. “This was out of character for him. But at the end of the day, he just wasn’t exhibiting the kind of veracity that we need and demand out of our employees.” The firing was supported by Rehberg, just elected to a fourth House term. Iverson said the congressman was not available for comment Friday. In an Aug. 9 e-mail to the Web site attrition.org, Shriber said he needed to “make contact with a hacker that would be interested in doing a one-time job for me. The pay would be good.” Attrition.org is an online clearinghouse for information on Internet and computer security. NetworkWorld reported that two members of attrition.org, identified as “Lyger” and “Jericho,” fooled Shriber into believing they would meet his wishes of tapping into the Texas Christian computer system so his grades could be changed. Jericho wrote Shriber on Aug. 9 that “you are soliciting me to break the law and hack into a computer across state lines. That is a federal offense and multiple felonies.” Shriber also was told that “we’re both equally liable in the actions.” NetworkWorld said the Internet relationship ended with an Aug. 27 e-mail. Lyger told Shriber, fictitiously, that hacking attempts were detected and it would be wise to “duck and run if you can.” As communications director, Shriber held “a position that entails a lot of trust,” Iverson said. Shriber’s work involved communicating with the public, often through the news media. Iverson said Shriber told him he used his home computer, not equipment in the congressional office, for the e-mails. In an e-mail responding to an Associated Press query on Friday, Lyger said neither Texas Christian nor federal authorities were tipped about Shriber’s proposal. “If we alerted authorities every time one of these types of requests come through, we would have little time for more important matters,” Lyger wrote. He said the correspondence routed through attrition.org’s Going Postal section includes a number of requests to hack systems or engage in other illegal activity. “How we deal with each request depends on the request itself or our particular mood (funny, angry, bored, etc.) on any given day,” Lyger wrote. Iverson said he wants to fill the job of communications director, for which Shriber received about $50,000 annually, soon after the first of the year. Shriber’s background includes work for Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Iverson said.