Cybersecurity intern accused in huge hacking bust

morgan culbertson

The guy accused of being one of the world's top Android phone hackers is a bright young student who's been honing his skills as an intern at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

On Wednesday the U.S. Justice Department announced a massive international bust of Darkode, an online black market for hackers.

Among those charged with crimes was Morgan Culbertson, a 20-year-old from Pittsburgh. He's accused of creating a nasty malware that infects Android phones, steals data and controls the device.

Culbertson is currently a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He's a two-time intern at the cybersecurity software maker FireEye where he's been researching malware on Android smartphones, tearing apart viruses, and analyzing them.

According to federal investigators, Culbertson went on to create the infamous "Dendroid" malware. For $300, anyone who bought it could turn any legitimate Android app into malware. Buyers even got round-the-clock software support.

The Dendroid malware was so bad that the cybersecurity companies Trend Micro (TMICF) and Symantec (SYMC, Tech30) each issued separate reports and warnings about it. They cautioned that it allowed hackers to remotely -- and quietly -- take screenshots, photos, videos and audio recordings.

dendroid malware
Hacker forums displayed Dendroid advertisement banners like this one.

FireEye (FEYE) issued a statement to CNNMoney that confirmed its intern was charged. The firm said it was caught be surprise.

"Mr. Culbertson's internship has been suspended pending an internal review of his activities," FireEye said.

The concern now is that Culbertson has compromised FireEye's software -- and used the corporation's knowledge and tools for criminal hacking. According to his online resume, he worked with FireEye's elite Advanced Persistent Threat team, which investigates hackers and their tactics.

CNNMoney wrote an email to Culbertson but did not receive an immediate response.

Fellow interns at FireEye described Culbertson as "very technically capable." But they expressed shock at the criminal accusations, noting that Culbertson was sociable and not the kind of person who would knowingly cause such widespread damage.

Hackers steal data from federal agencies

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