The police department in Fort Smith, Arkansas is accused of trying to trick an attorney into downloading malicious software onto his computer during his work in a case involving three police whistleblowers, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The lawyer, Matthew Campbell, said in an affadavit that the department gave him an external hard drive containing three "trojan" viruses, while also deleting email accounts pertaining to the case instead of giving him information.
"One would have kept my Internet active even if I tried to turn it off, one would have stolen any passwords that I entered in, and the other would have allowed the installation of other malicious software," Campbell said. "It's not like these are my only clients, either. I've got all my client files in my computer. I don't know what they were looking for, but just the fact that they would do it is pretty scary."
Campbell currently represents three current and former officers who filed a whistleblowers' lawsuit against the department, saying they were targeted for speaking out regarding a civilian employee's taking illegal overtime and the wrongful termination of a probationary officer.
The attorney said he originally gave the department the hard drive as part of his discovery request in the suit. But instead of using an online storage service or sending the drive back via regular mail, Campbell said, it was returned to him via Federal Express. He then contacted an information security expert, Geoff Mueller, and asked him to examine the drive.
Mueller subsequently discovered the four viruses in a folder that was not originally on the drive, which he said meant they were "likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell's computer while also stealing passwords to his account."
Campbell has asked that the department be held in contempt of court, and has retained his own lawyer in preparation for a separate lawsuit involving the alleged attempt to hack his computer. The department has until April 24 to respond.
"We're going to let the courts speak on that when the time comes," Police Chief Kevin D. Lindsey told the Democrat-Gazette. "We'll let the courts get this worked out and let the disposition speak for itself."
[h/t Ars Technica]