'Helpful' Hacker Readies Guilty Plea
By George V. Hulme
Date: January 07, 2004
Adrian Lamo, the hacker who made a name for himself by breaching the security of large companies and then offering to help them fix the vulnerabilities he found for free, is expected to enter a guilty plea on a federal hacking charge later this week.
Lamo told InformationWeek during a telephone interview that he was flying from his California residence this week for a court appearance in New York, where he would plead to a single federal hacking charge. Lamo didn't discuss the details of his plea or the charge for which he expects to plead, other than to say, "I believe it's the right thing to do."
"I always said that I was aware that my actions have consequences and that I wouldn't deny the consequences of my actions," he said late Monday.
Sean Hecker, Lamo's federal public defender, confirmed Tuesday that Lamo is scheduled for a hearing Thursday but wouldn't provide details other to confirm that a "potential guilty plea" will be discussed.
If a plea is entered, the next step would be a sentencing hearing, which should occur in about three months, Hecker said.
A federal compliant was filed in August in the Southern District of New York as a result of Lamo's alleged hack into the private network of The New York Times in February 2002. The complaint alleges that Lamo's access caused $25,000 in damages as a result of his adding his name to the paper's Op-Ed database. The complaint also alleges Lamo racked up $300,000 in LexisNexis fees as a result of his searching for news stories containing, among other things, his name.
The federal complaint also lists a string of other intrusions allegedly conducted by Lamo--who, in each case, after breaching the security of the company, offered to help the company fix the flaws. After the security holes were plugged, Lamo then would make the breach public through the media.
The companies Lamo allegedly breached with his hack-and-tell style include Excite@Home, Yahoo, Microsoft, MCI-WorldCom, and SBC Ameritech. Some of the companies Lamo allegedly hacked, including WorldCom, thanked him for finding and helping to fix the security holes he uncovered.
In early September, Lamo was released into the custody of his parents on a $250,000 bond that they secured. Lamo says he's attending college with a focus on journalism and is seeking employment.
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