Hacker Prosecuted After Creating Android Smartphone Seizing Software

A student has been sentenced to three years’ probation for selling malicious software that allowed cyber criminals to remotely access and control Android smartphones.

Morgan Culbertson, a 22-year-old student from Carnergie Mellon University, was ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, according to the Associated Press, for selling the software through a cyber criminal marketplace.

Clamping cyber criminals

Culbertson was spared a prison sentence due to his lack of previous convictions and the arguments by his defence that he was using his hacking skills to constructively as a test of his abilities rather than in a malicious fashion.

The electrical computer engineering student developed the Dendroid app for controlling smartphones using Google’s mobile operating system, which he then put up for sale on the Darknode.com marketplace.  He was said to have made the app with the assistance of a man identified as only “Mike from the Netherlands”.

One hacker reportedly bought the app for around $400 (£323) and used it to infect 1,500 smartphones.

Culbertson finally faced the law when he became one of 12 people charged with selling cyber criminal software on Darknode.com after US authorities moved to take the site down.


The student was remorseful and told US District Judge Arthur Schwab: “I’m very sorry for what I did and I will be haunted by this for the rest of my life.”

It is unknown how many phones were infected by Culbertson’s software, but a fellow hacker reportedly said the student had produced enough copies of Dendroid to infect 450,000 phones.

Authorities are clamping down more and more on cyber criminals, but it appears that they are facing an almost unsurmountable challenge of fending off everyone from hardened coders to amateur ‘script kiddies’ all of whom pose a digital threat to the cyber security of both organisations and citizens.

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Roland Moore-Colyer

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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