Ex-FireEye intern escapes prison sentence after creating and selling Dendroid malware

“I’m very sorry for what I did and I will be haunted by this for the rest of my life.”

Graham Cluley

22-year-old Morgan Culbertson of Churchill, Pittsburgh, has been ordered to perform 300 hours of community service.

Which is a lot sweeter deal than the 16 months in prison he could have faced under federal guidelines for creating and selling the Dendroid malware.

Dendroid is a sophisticated piece of Android malware, capable of hijacking smartphones in order to steal data and spy on innocent users via their cameras.

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Culbertson plotted to sell his Dendroid malware for $350, and demanded $65,000 from anyone interested in buying his source code. He was caught after the FBI raided the Darkode cybercrime forum in 2015, dashing his hopes of infecting almost half a million Android phones with his malware.

Last year Culbertson pleaded guilty, in a case which made headlines because the young software engineer was working as an intern at security firm FireEye… researching mobile malware.

As Associated Press reports Culberton’s lack of a criminal record and efforts to use his computer skills in a positive way since he was charged helped him escape a diet of bread and water:

“I’m very sorry for what I did and I will be haunted by this for the rest of my life.”

Let’s hope that others will see Culbertson’s case and not be tempted to make the same mistakes he made. Honing your computer skills is one thing – but if you fail to also show some ethical maturity you could be at risk of casting a long shadow over your future prospects.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

4 comments on “Ex-FireEye intern escapes prison sentence after creating and selling Dendroid malware”

  1. I'm surprised he didn't get gaol (or jail if you're American) as they seem so keen to imprison their citizens for the most minor of infractions like 'running a red light'.

    In other news this astonishing bug has been discovered:

    "The Linux encryption app Cryptkeeper has a rather stunning security bug: the single-character decryption key "p" decrypts everything…"


  2. i got out of jail in my mind even after i created F SOCIETY.

    So how come the msm or any so-called reputable tech medium isn't talking about this incident?


    or this


    or would it be considered undesirable news to report because it was reported on these sites? or do they just pick and choose what draws ratings and sells ad space? the truth is out there, you just have to have a discerning mind and read between the lines to find it.

  3. "Let's hope that others will see Culbertson's case and not be tempted to make the same mistakes he made."

    They'd be less tempted if instead of giving Culbertson a little knuckle rapping, we punished him to the full extent of the law as we should anybody we catch creating cyber mayhem.

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