PITTSBURGH — An Ohio man has been arrested on federal charges that he posted an anonymous YouTube video and a follow-up comment claiming to have stolen computer records from the University of Pittsburgh and threatening to release them unless the school's chancellor made a public apology.
Alexander Waterland, 24, a Loveland, Ohio, man who worked as a computer specialist for an online prescription drug service, was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Cincinnati Wednesday afternoon, according to U.S. Attorney David Hickton's office in Pittsburgh, which is prosecuting the case.
Hickton said he could not answer questions because the investigation was continuing into Waterland's alleged activities, as well as bomb threats — some emailed and others written in bathroom stalls of campus buildings — that disrupted classes and dorm life for weeks this year.
Waterland is not charged with making the earlier bomb threats. Pitt officials did not immediately return requests for comment on Waterland's arrest.
An eight-page FBI affidavit unsealed Wednesday said Waterland posted a YouTube video using the computer name AnonOperative13, claiming that the computer hacking group known as Anonymous had stolen records of students, faculty and alumni from university computers.
The April 26 video demanded that school officials apologize for not "protecting" students just five days after the last of a string of dozens of bomb threats. A group calling itself The Threateners emailed the school's student paper, The Pitt News, promising to stop the bomb threats in return for the university's withdrawing a $50,000 reward, and the university complied — although school officials didn't explain why the reward was withdrawn at that time.
Waterland's threat to release the allegedly hacked files also was followed by a comment, on May 2 from AnonOperative13, that said, "We also would like to state that we are NOT going to release the information unless Pitt admins ... follow our very simple request!" The threat gave a May 15 deadline for Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to issue a public apology.
On May 14, an email from AnonOperative repeated the threat to release the records unless the apology was made within seven days and ended, "We are your worst nightmare! The internet is here! You will now Expect US!"
The FBI affidavit said investigators were able to trace the video and other two "Anonymous" messages to various IP addresses, including three linked to Waterland: an apartment complex where he lives; an MiFi wireless device owned by Express Scripts, the Mason, Ohio, company where he worked; and his sister's home in Indian Head, Md.
A spokesman for Express Scripts, a St. Louis-based prescription management service, said Waterland is no longer with the company.
"We are fully cooperating with the investigation," spokesman Brian Henry said.
A message left on the home telephone answering machine of Waterland's sister was not immediately returned. She is not accused of any wrongdoing.
It was not immediately clear whether Waterland has an attorney.
He was charged with one count each of interstate threats and extortion and internet extortion involving a protected computer. The Pitt computers that were allegedly hacked are considered "protected" under federal law in that they contain the personal information of students, faculty and staff. The charges carry a maximum federal prison term of seven years and up to $500,000 in fines.
Hickton explained that the investigation continues into the first set of threats written on bathroom stalls that surfaced in mid-February, and a second set of anonymous e-mailed bomb threats that began weeks later, neither of which involved Waterland.
The bomb threats became so persistent that a terrorism task force of federal, state and local authorities has been assigned to investigate. Final exams in May were restricted to five campus buildings with heightened security and some students whose families live near the school moved home rather than deal with the threats, several of which caused dorms to be evacuated during overnight hours.