‘The Homeless Hacker’

Danger to world security...

Lamo was a grey hat hacker who viewed the rise of the World Wide Web with a mixture of excitement and alarm. He felt that others failed to see the importance of internet security in the early days of the World Wide Web. Lamo would break into corporate computer systems, but he never caused damage to the systems involved. Instead, he would offer to fix the security flaws free of charge, and if the flaw wasn’t fixed, he would alert the media.  Lamo hoped to be hired by a corporation to attempt to break in systems and test their security, a practice that came to be known as red teaming. However, by the time this practice was common, his felony conviction prevented him from being hired.

In December 2001, Lamo was praised by Worldcom for helping to fortify their corporate security.  In February 2002, he broke into the internal computer network of The New York Times, added his name to the internal database of expert sources, and used the paper’s LexisNexis account to conduct research on high-profile subjects. The New York Times filed a complaint, and a warrant for Lamo’s arrest was issued in August 2003 following a 15-month investigation by federal prosecutors in New York. At 10:15 a.m. on September 9, after spending a few days in hiding, he surrendered to the US Marshals in Sacramento, California. He re-surrendered to the FBI in New York City on September 11, and pleaded guilty to one felony count of computer crimes against MicrosoftLexisNexis, and The New York Times on January 8, 2004.

In July 2004, Lamo was sentenced to two years’ probation, with six months to be served in home detention, and ordered to pay $65,000 in restitution. He was convicted of compromising security at The New York Times, Microsoft,  Yahoo!, and WorldCom.

When challenged for a response to allegations that he was glamorizing crime for the sake of publicity, his response was: “Anything I could say about my person or my actions would only cheapen what they have to say for themselves”. When approached for comment during his criminal case, Lamo frustrated reporters with non-sequiturs, such as “Faith manages” and “It’s a beautiful day.”

WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning

In May 2010, Lamo reported to U.S. Army authorities that then Bradley Manning had claimed to have leaked a large body of classified documents, including 260,000 classified United States diplomatic cables.  Lamo stated that Manning also “took credit for leaking” the video footage of the July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike, which has since come to be known as the “Collateral Murder” video. Lamo stated, in an article written by Kevin Poulsen in Wired magazine, that he would not have turned Manning in “if lives weren’t in danger … [Manning] was in a war zone and basically trying to vacuum up as much classified information as [she] could, and just throwing it up into the air.” WikiLeaks responded by denouncing Lamo and Poulsen as “notorious felons, informers & manipulators”, and said: “journalists should take care.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jo Slinger

    Very interesting, I think he unfortunately inspired a lot of copycat hacks and did a lot of damage to the US army and pretty much everyone else with his hacks. Wikileaks didn’t help security either.

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