In a case that was just made public, in 2015, two inmates from Ohio enrolled in a prison work program that dismantled computers and PCs that were then sent to recycling. The inmates were unsupervised and hid COMPUTERS in the ceiling of a training room, breaching the trust of the program. They used parts salvaged from the recycling project to slowly assemble the PCs, but were ultimately foiled when their attempts tried to take them to some of the saucier areas of the world wide web.
The computers found had pornography, software, articles about making drugs and explosives all present on the computers. They were also trying to access file-sharing sites that were blocked by the prison’s server as well as trying to access other forbidden online content.
They were discovered after IT noticed unusual levels on internet activity on the account of a contractor and emailed him that the internet threshold for the user has been exceeded for the day. Since he was not scheduled to work, it was mysterious and thus launched the investigation.
The mysterious user had tried to access certain file-sharing sites but had been blocked by the prison network’s proxy server, which denies access to certain online content. The user “then spent the next three hours straight trying to find sites that would circumvent the proxy and our policies,” an email to IT employees noted.
After investigating the source of the network traffic, a member of the IT staff and two other inmates who were with him found a network cable leading up into the ceiling. “When I removed the ceiling tiles I found two PCs hidden in the ceiling on two pieces of plywood,” the staff member wrote in an incident report.
One of the inmates who had set up the computers later described how he had used components from other PCs that were part of a computer waste recycling programme. He then plugged his machine into an internet connection device in the prison, according to the Inspector General’s report.
“And then… bam, I’m on the network,” he told investigators. A trove of data was discovered on the machines, including records of passes being issued for inmates so they could access various parts of the prison. Forensic analysis of the hard drives also found pornography, articles about making drugs, explosives and credit cards.
One IT employee was found to have breached inventory and crime scene protection policies.