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Teen hacker 'Vigilance' charged over cyberattacks targeting Minnesota state government databases

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A 19-year-old hacker who goes by the moniker "Vigilance" has been charged for allegedly attempting to break into and interfere with several servers operated by the state of Minnesota. The teen, identified as Cameron Thomas Crowley, was charged on May 22 in a five-count indictment of intentionally accessing and damaging protected computers, and identity theft.

Between May 28 and June 17 last year, the teen broke into protected servers belonging to the state and other entities, resulting in damages and losses of more than $5000 to the state. The Minnesota Star Tribune reported last year the Vigilance compromised 23 state databases.

At the time, Vigilance took credit for hacking Minnesota's government portal and Minnesota State University Moorhead on Twitter and Ghostbin. The attacks seemed to be a retaliation to the acquittal of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez. The officer was charged with manslaughter in the July 2016 shooting of school cafeteria worker Philando Castile during a traffic stop. Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live.

The shooting triggered massive outrage and widespread protests across the country. In June 2017, Yanez was cleared of all charges and let go by the police department.

Following the court's verdict, the hacker broke into state servers and tweeted: “An innocent man is dead, while a guilty man is free... I have attacked large Minnesotan targets for one purpose: Retaliation for ex-officer Yanez's acquittal."

He told the Star Tribune at the time: “I chose the Philando case because I was so fed up with all the injustices in the news about cops killing innocent men, women and children then walking free. When I saw the verdict, I knew I had to take action.”

He also taunted authorities in the Github post saying, "The FBI is set to investigate me. I am confident my identity is safe. I have a plan, one that I cannot detail just yet, to ensure my safety.

"To the vigilant: You are not alone. Protest the injustices. Your voices may fall on deaf ears. We can work together to guide our society in the right direction... Fight for your freedoms. Fight for your rights as a human being. I will be looking forward to our battles together."

The teen made his first appearance in court on Tuesday and will remain in federal custody pending his detention hearing.

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