CHARLESTON, WV—U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin today charged Clay County Sheriff Miles J. “Mike” Slack with illegal wiretapping, a federal felony that can carry up to five years in prison. In a criminal case filed this afternoon, Goodwin charged Sheriff Slack with surreptitiously installing a keystroke logger on a computer belonging to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
According to court documents, the compromised computer was a government computer assigned to Slack’s then-wife, identified as Victim L.S., who works in the office of a Clay County magistrate. Computers in the offices of circuit judges and magistrates throughout West Virginia are owned and maintained by the state’s supreme court and are connected to a central supreme court computer network.
Sheriff Slack installed the hidden device in late April of this year, said Goodwin and Steven Ruby, the assistant federal prosecutor who signed today’s charge, and it remained in place for over two weeks, intercepting messages and data transmitted from L.S.’s supreme court computer.
Keystroke logging devices can be purchased from a number of Internet-based sellers. The devices, usually one to two inches long, are attached to a computer’s keyboard cable. Once installed, they can intercept everything typed on the keyboard, including e-mail and information transmitted to Internet sites.
Because the devices are unobtrusive and normally hidden behind the computer targeted for surveillance, they can go undetected for long periods of time. Though small in size, some keystroke loggers can store two gigabytes of information, enough to record more than a billion keystrokes.