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Police: Man used military training to hack prison computer

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. -- A big arrest has been made in Blair County. The District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that the man they said is behind threats against the Altoona Water Authority to contaminate the water supply was brought into custody

The suspect is a man police said is highly trained in computers and a man who was already in prison when he used those skills to allegedly send those threats.

Adam Hardin, 23, was arraigned Tuesday on 11 felony charges, including making terroristic threats and threats to use weapons of mass destruction, for his involvement in a series of threats to the Hollidaysburg area in October.

"It's a frustrating, disappointing situation but when you're dealing with characters like this you have to adjust and move quickly," said Terry Tomasetti. "I think we did that effectively."

Police said Hardin hacked a computer in the law library of the Blair County Prison that doesn't offer internet. Police said he found a way to email a series of threats to local media outlets.

"We believe that Hardin's training, which he received from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and local Secretary of Education facility, gave him the ability to manipulate the system," said officer H.T. Fownes, of the Hollidaysburg Police Department.

Police said those emails included a bomb threat at the Blair County courthouse that prompted the evacuation of nearly two blocks Oct. 23 and then two days later, a contamination threat to a large portion of Blair County's water supply that, for at least 48 hours, forced several communities to boil their water.

Police said the investigation ultimately came to a head when they received a tip from the girlfriend of one of Hardin's fellow inmates.

"She had received a letter from someone claiming knowledge of an event before it occurred and that was documented and dropped in the mail before the threat happened," said Fownes. "It was describing that threat."

It's a case officials said cost the county in excess of $10,000, consumed law-enforcement for and put residents safety at risk.

"This is like pulling a false alarm. Fire departments, police departments, people were evacuated and had to hustle from the incident. There could always be injuries," said Richard Consiglio, district attorney for Blair County. "I don't think people realize how serious these things are."

It's unclear how long Hardin has been in prison, but police said he's there serving time for several cases, including one over the summer where he's accused of stealing a Humvee.
In fact he made light of background in court Tuesday, saying, "I'm getting on heck of a rap sheet, aren't I?"

Even though Hardin is in prison for several cases already, his bond was set at an extra $250,000 Tuesday because the judge said he put entire communities in danger.

Officials said several security changes have already been implemented at the courthouse to prevent incidents, such as this, from occuring again.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times