Nationally known hacker sought on federal warrant

Saturday, September 6, 2003

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A nationally known computer hacker is being sought on a federal arrest warrant stemming from a sealed complaint in New York, a federal defender in California said Friday.

Adrian Lamo, 22, has publicly acknowledged involvement in some dramatic computer break-ins at large corporations during the past several years, including The New York Times, Yahoo!, Worldcom and ExciteAtHome.

Lamo had told reporters he would surrender to the FBI on the federal courthouse steps in Sacramento on Friday, but he didn't show up.

Supervising Assistant Federal Defender Mary French confirmed through a colleague that there was a sealed complaint against Lamo from the Southern District of New York, that a federal arrest warrant had been issued, but that her office was not involved in arranging his surrender.

Lamo has acknowledged changing the text of at least one news story on Yahoo's Web site in September 2001 and months later browsed sensitive data on computers at the Times. Among the Times data was a list of 3,000 op-ed page contributors, which included Social Security numbers for celebrities and government officials.

Lamo has offered to work for free with his hacking victims after each break-in to improve the security of their networks. Some accepted his offer.

Worldcom publicly praised Lamo for his cooperation after his December 2001 break-in exposed a serious problem with one of its Internet traffic-directing devices.

The Times called the FBI.

"I'm surprised it hasn't caught up to him yet," said Richard Forno, a private computer security consultant in Washington. "It's naive to assume he could do what he's done under the guise of being a cyber good Samaritan."

"When you do stuff like this it's so public and open you're pretty much inviting people to arrest you," said Mark Rasch, a former cybercrimes prosecutor for the Justice Department.

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