herald

Friday 17 August 2018

FBI hack accused won €10k teaching handout

AN Irish student charged by the FBI with computer hacking is on a council scholarship worth €10,000.

Trinity undergraduate Donncha O Cearbhaill (19) was also nominated as a STEM ambassador -- meaning he is to pass on his love of science, technology, engineering and maths to secondary school pupils.

Offaly County Council -- through the local county development board -- nominated four students including Mr O Cearbhaill as STEM ambassadors and scholarship awardees.

They each receive a bursary of €2,500-a-year for four years.

However, the students have yet to be paid any of the cash.

"I am to advise that Donncha O Cearbhaill was one of four students who were awarded a STEM scholarship in 2011.

"No funds, under this scheme, have been disbursed to date," a council spokeswoman told the Herald.

Independent councillor Eddie Fitzpatrick, who presented Mr O Cearbhaill and the other three students with the awards, said he does not know if the payment hold-up has anything to do with the allegations against Mr O Cearbhaill.

The student was released from garda custody without charge on Wednesday last week, having been arrested for questioning earlier in the day.

He was charged in US court documents the previous day with one count of computer hacking conspiracy.

Mr O Cearbhaill, who went by the online moniker Palladium, is also accused of hacking into a garda's personal email and sourcing information on a conference call between US authorities and gardai.

The hacking group Anonymous was discussed in the exchange. The student is alleged to have recorded the call and distributed the recording.

Gardai released Mr O Cearbhaill, the son of Offaly county councillor John Carroll (Ind), and said a file was being prepared for the DPP.

A second Irish student, Darren Martyn from Galway, was charged in the US with two counts of computer hacking conspiracy.

Chemistry

The council grant is for students taking a science, technology, engineering and mathematics course at third level who commenced in the academic year 2011/12.

The scholarship programme is an initiative of Offaly County Development Board and was established to promote science and maths related courses among second-level students.

"In taking up the role of STEM ambassadors, the students will communicate their passion and enthusiasm for STEM to secondary school students and will encourage other students to take up courses in these areas," the council says.

Mr O Cearbhaill, who attended St Brendan's Community College, Birr, is studying Medicinal Chemistry at Trinity College.

He participated in the Irish Science Olympiads for three years running and he represented Ireland at the International Olympiad in Informatics in Canada and in Thailand.

The FBI has alleged Mr O Cearbhaill and Mr Martyn, along with three others, were aligned with Anonymous and other related groups.

comurphy@herald.ie

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