Rediff.com
Print this article

Indian gets 1-year jail in US for destroying computers in alma mater

August 17, 2019 19:30 IST

Vishwanath Akuthota, who had graduated in 2017 with an MBA, caused carnage to every computer he could find, to wit 59 PCs, seven Apple machines, some smart devices that were unlucky enough to sport USB ports, even some units attached to podiums.

Image used for representation purpose only. Photograph: Kind courtesy Rodger Shija/Pixabay.com

On Valentine's day, Vishwanath Akuthota went around his alma mater, using a USB device to destroy about 66 computers.

August 13, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison, followed by a year of probation, and has to pay restitution of $58,471 to The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York.

 

Akuthota, who had graduated in 2017 with an MBA, came back to cause carnage to every computer he could find, to wit 59 PCs, seven Apple machines, some smart devices that were unlucky enough to sport USB ports, even some units attached to podiums.

The device, which he bought off the Internet, is based on a one tested by one Dark Purple, a Russia-based hacker.

In a blog post (external link), Dark Purple had described it as a unit that draws in electricity from the USB port, repeatedly building up charges between -110 and -225 volts in the computer's capacitors until the machine's electronics are damaged beyond repair.

Security cameras revealed someone in a red sweatshirt, blue jeans, black sneakers and carrying a gray backpack, going to all the machines that had failed.

People who knew Akuthota identified him to the police, who tracked him to North Carolina where he was arrested February 22.

Gratifyingly enough for the authorities, Akuthota had taken video of his spree on his iPhone, in which he could be heard saying things like "I'm going to kill this guy" before putting his USB in a machine, then "It's dead." In another case, he said with evident satisfaction, "It's gone. Boom."

In spite of the college's surveillance tapes, and being in possession of the video he recorded and the destructive USB device itself, Akuthota pleaded not guilty.

By April 16, perhaps after long discussion with Lee Kindlon, his attorney, he changed the plea to guilty to lesser charges.

None of the available documents mention his motive, though there may be clues in the day he went on the rampage.

Akuthota, who is originally from Chhittoor in Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, had not always exhibited the rancorous behavior he did in Albany.

In a Facebook interview on the college's page, he described how much he enjoyed his work as a graduate assistant to a music professor.

On other sites, he described some interest in helping people back in India.

The post quotes him as saying, "I 'plan' everything so that it is very easy to balance the school work. Do the work which you have to do first. Everything goes with a plan."

For Akuthota, who also spoke of being an entrepreneur, even connecting with potential co-founders in Albany, clearly nothing had gone according to plan.

On his music site, Akuthota had also waxed philosophical, describing a friend quoting from a Rabindranath Tagore poem about lost opportunities:

"Spring has passed. Summer has gone. Winter is here...
and the song I meant to sing remains unsung. For I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument."

There is a metaphor in there somewhere for Akuthota.