Wi-Fi-Hacking Neighbor Wreaks Havoc on Minnesota Couple, Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison

Think you have a bad neighbor?  Matt and Bethany Kostolnik from Minnesota have you beat hands down.

The Kostolnik’s former neighbor, 46-year-old Barry Ardolf, was sentenced to 18 years in prison this week after hacking into their Wi-Fi network and subjecting the couple to what the prosecutor in the case called “unfathomable psychic damage.”

What could the couple have done to cause Ardolf’s rage? They called police after he kissed their four-year-old son on the mouth shortly after moving in next door.

That incident, shortly after the Kostolnik’s moved in to their neighborhood in 2009, started a horrific chain of events where Ardolf said he was going to “get even.”

Even though their Wi-Fi connection was encrypted, albeit with the less-secure WEP security algorithm, Ardolf was able to hack the connection.

He started by creating a fake MySpace page for Matt Kostolnik complete with child pornography. Using the husband’s e-mail account, Ardolf then sent the same images to the husband’s coworkers.

The Secret Service then got involved after Vice President Joe Biden and other politicians received a slew of threatening emails from the couple’s e-mail address, traced back to the hacked home router’s IP address.

After convincing his law firm that he was not responsible, his superior’s hired a forensic computer investigator, who discovered Ardolf’s ISP account.

With a search warrant, the FBI then searched Ardolf’s house and found a treasure trove of evidence, including Wi-Fi hacking manuals, information taken from the Kostolnik’s computer, the child pornography image and evidence that he had hacked a former neighbor’s computer in another Minnesota city.

And if the 18-year prison sentence sounds long for a first-time offender, Ardolf has no one to blame but himself.  After turning down a plea bargain of a two-year jail sentence related to only the e-mail to the vice president, prosecutors added identity theft and child pornography charges to the mix.

Ardolf apparently wised up and pleaded guilty in December, but then changed his mind, writing to a judge in April that he was sleep deprived and ironically that his double-murderer cellmate was “terrorizing” him (poor guy.)

But the claims were rejected, and he was sentenced on the original guilty plea and now must register as a sex offender for life.

Posted by Brent Dirks on Jul 15, 2011

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