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French police arrest hacker who fooled Twitter

Video by Siobhán SILKE , Nicolas Rushworth

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2010-03-25

French police have arrested a man known as "Hacker Croll" who infiltrated several high-profile Twitter accounts, including those of US President Barack Obama and pop star Britney Spears, and once described his philosophy as “I hack, therefore I am”.

France’s most famous hacker was arrested on Wednesday in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand after a 9-month joint investigation between French police and the FBI. The 25-year-old unemployed man was later released and ordered to appear in court on June 24.

“Hacker Croll”, as he was known online, will have to explain how he managed to infiltrate the email accounts of several employees – including those of Twitter boss Evan Williams and his wife. From there, “Hacker Croll” succeeded in harvesting even more passwords. His key find: the micro-blogging site’s administration code, which allowed him to extend his control all over Twitter.

“Hacker Croll” shot to prominence in July 2009 after he sent 310 pages of stolen documents to technology blogs like TechCrunch and Korben. He leaked mostly futile information, such as notes for a reality TV game on the Web, offices floor plans, or the food preference of several Twitter employees… But he also released some sensitive data, such as financial projections relating to Twitter’s profitability.

‘Hackito ergo sum’

Officials believe the French youth acted alone and was driven by the challenge of hacking into the popular social-networking site. “Hacker Croll” appears to have been more interested in the private life of celebrities.

“He's a young man spending time on the Internet. He acted as though it were a bet, out of defiance. He is the sort who likes to claim responsibility for what he has done,” said French prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat.

In an interview with specialist blogs Korben and Zataz, the hacker denied using the Twitter accounts of pop singer Britney Spears or US President Barack Obama to spread false information. “Hacking Croll” told Zataz he never had the “intent to harm or destroy” but that his philosophy was simply “Hackito ergo sum” – I hack, therefore, I am.

His online attacks have forced Twitter to reinforce its online security measures and change its passwords. French police said “Hacker Croll” had also managed to infiltrate Facebook and Gmail accounts, adding that he was involved in several minor scams on the Web.

Date created : 2010-03-24

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