Hacker apparently risked prison term to turn in Bristol man in child porn case

Local News

In the near future, cyber-security experts nationwide will likely be paying close attention to a federal criminal case originating in Addison County. Scott Remick, 46, of Bristol is charged with possession of child pornography after the Department of Homeland Security arrested him on Wednesday.

On Friday, a judge denied a request from the Vermont U.S. Attorney’s Office for Remick to be detained.
He’s free on conditions until his next court appearance, which is scheduled for July 26.

Shannon Vavra is a national security reporter for the news website The Daily Beast. She worked together with a Washington, D.C. researcher of federal court records to break the story on Thursday morning.

“It’s a really interesting case for the cyber-security community to keep track of just because there’s so many twists and turns in this story, and it really does tug at your heartstrings,” Vavra said. “It’s a very disturbing case.”

Prosecutors say a hacker was being paid in mid-June to find computers that were vulnerable to a specific security flaw. As part of that work, the hacker reportedly stumbled upon encrypted child porn files and other evidence on a computer in Remick’s home.

“We don’t know who the security researcher is; they’re not identified by name, or gender, even,” Vavra said. “Their employer is not mentioned as well, and the specifics of how far into the computer and hard drive of the defendant, Scott Remick, the computer researcher went isn’t particularly clear.”

It’s also not clear just where the hacker lives, but wherever they are, they risked going to prison by coming forward. Any disclosure of the discovery would have been an admission that they were hacking — and, thus, breaking federal law. After they came forward anyway, U.S. Attorneys offered immunity from prosecution.

“What was really interesting here exactly was the extent to which the U.S. government is willing to provide immunity to hackers who have transgressed the law for turning in someone who is possibly a child abuser, someone who may be in possession of porn — child porn,” Vavra said.

The use of federal immunity might set a legal precedent for the future.

“I’ll be curious to watch that myself in the coming weeks, months and years to see if this is used in other court cases, for other hackers,” Vavra said.

Remick is a senior technology specialist at Middlebury College. According to an automated reply from his work email account, he’s away from his job on leave.

Local 22 & Local 44 News asked two things of officials at Middlebury College Friday afternoon: if Remick’s leave is with pay or without, and if they had any further comment.

Late Friday night, our inquiry was directed to Middlebury associate vice president for public affairs Julia Ferrante, who replied:

“I cannot provide information about an employee or personnel matter. I can tell you: Middlebury complies with and cooperates in all matters involving lawful requests from authorities. In the rare event of an arrest, we ordinarily place the employee on leave and take other appropriate steps while we gather more information.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending

Trending Stories

Latest Coronavirus Headlines

More Coronavirus

SkyTracker Weather Blog

More SkyTracker Blog