[ISN] A Burglary Foiled by Calls That Didn't Reach 911

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Nov 29 02:00:35 EST 2004

Forwarded from: William Knowles <wk at c4i.org>


November 27, 2004

The plan seemed simple enough. The building had been cased and the
burglars knew exactly what they wanted - advanced computer circuit
panels that could be sold on the black market for hundreds of
thousands of dollars.

The night before Thanksgiving, about 8 p.m., they entered the Verizon
building in White Plains undetected and set to work.

But as the criminals removed the panels, they soon triggered problems
across Westchester County. Most problematic, 911 systems across the
region began to crash. By the time some 150 panels were removed,
roughly 25,000 people had lost 911 service.

At 9:51 p.m., the White Plains Police received a call alerting them to
the fact that there might be a problem at the Verizon building. Still
unaware that burglars were at work inside, a patrol car rolled up to
the site, according to Inspector Daniel Jackson.

"Literally, the two guys were walking out the door," Mr. Jackson said.  
They were carrying two large boxes when the officer shouted for them
to stop. The men dropped the stolen boxes, fled on foot and were
eventually run down by the officer and arrested, Mr. Jackson said.

The two men were identified in a criminal complaint as Larry D. Davis,
43, of Brooklyn, and Gailican Phillips, 34 of Manhattan.

They have been charged with conspiracy to commit interstate shipment
of stolen property, a federal crime with a maximum sentence of five
years in jail, according to the complaint.

Mr. Jackson said that the burglary itself was not as disturbing as the
widespread effect it had on the 911 system.

The police are working with the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland
Security on the case. Terrorism has been ruled out as a possible

Although the burglary occurred in the Verizon building, the stolen
equipment belonged to some half-dozen other telecommunications
companies that use the premises to house part of their operations. No
Verizon customers were affected, a company official said.

Dan Diaz Zapata, a spokesman for Verizon, said the building had many
levels of security - from video cameras to security badges to on-site
guards - and that the company was cooperating with local and federal
authorities. Mr. Zapata said that Verizon had redundancy capabilities
built into its system that would have prevented a theft of their own
equipment from having such a wide impact.

Mr. Jackson said that there had been a theft at the building once
before, in 2003, and the police had reason to believe one of the two
men involved Wednesday also took part in that operation. He would not
elaborate on other details in that case. However, much less was stolen

According to the complaint filed in Southern District of New York, the
circuit boards ranged in value from $5,000 to $70,000 each and, all
told, were worth in excess of $1 million. The plan was to deliver them
to an unnamed co-conspirator who, in turn, planned to sell them to an
unnamed company in California, according to the complaint.

"There apparently is a strong, robust black market for this stuff,"  
said a federal law enforcement official, who insisted on anonymity for
fear of saying something that would compromise the investigation.

There have been two other similar burglaries in New York City and New
Jersey in recent years, according to Mr. Jackson. Those thefts were
much smaller in scale.

National Infrastructure Coordination Center of the Department of
Homeland Security is also working with local police because of concern
that the 911 system could be relatively easily compromised.

After arresting the two men and photographing the stolen circuit
panels, the police returned them to the companies that owned them.  
Once reinstalled, the 911 problems ended, and by 7 a.m. the system was
back to normal, Mr. Jackson said.

Police said the panels that were stolen were each about the size of a
legal pad and are used by telecommunications companies to transmit
data and connect calls. There is an industry standard for the panels
and they can easily be transferred from one computer to another.

Potential buyers of the panels on the black market range from small
telecommunications companies to overseas clients, the police said.

"Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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