FBI arrests alleged operator of site that hosted hacked congressional health data

·2 min read
J. Scott Applewhite

The FBI has arrested a man accused of running the hacker website that recently made public the personal information of tens of thousands of congressional employees, court records show.

The site, BreachForums, served as a marketplace for hackers to openly buy, sell and trade hacked material. It became inaccessible Monday.

The suspect, Conor Fitzpatrick, is charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud for allegedly helping users of the site sell access to hacked companies. The charges detail how an undercover FBI agent posed as a buyer for such access.

On March 8, Capitol Police told Congress that a major data breach had affected DC Health Link, a health care marketplace used by many members of Congress and their staff.

Before the breach was public, a user on BreachForums offered to sell what they claimed were databases of that information. Another user eventually posted at least one version of the data for anyone to access.

One Senate office verified with NBC News that the database contained sensitive personal information of five of its staffers. The database included more than 65,000 individuals, including more than 1,000 whose occupation listed them as working for Congress.

The charges do not clearly connect Fitzpatrick to the leak of congressional data. But the complaint against him states the FBI has long monitored him as he committed alleged crimes. The agency had identified him as the alleged operator of BreachForums at least as early as the spring of 2022, the court documents show.

In some cases, the same IP address — a code assigned to a particular computer on the internet that can help identify where it’s coming from — was used to both perform duties as the head of BreachForums and to log into a Gmail account under the name of Conor Fitzpatrick, the FBI said.

Fitzpatrick was initially arrested on March 15. The complaint against him was unsealed Thursday. News of court documents conveying his arrest was first reported by Bloomberg News.

Fitzpatrick told the FBI that he made about $1,000 per day operating BreachForums, the complaint said. His lawyer declined to comment.

BreachForums is no longer a functional website. Another administrator for the site, who runs its Telegram channel, has claimed he is safe from U.S. law enforcement but warned users that the FBI might come after them.

“The most important thing right now of our community is to be aware that the FBI is now confirmed to have access to the Breached database,” the administrator said in a note published to his Telegram account Wednesday.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com