Hilton Hacker Pleads Guilty
A 17-year-old Massachusetts kid has pleaded guilty for hacking into hotel heiress Paris Hilton's cell phone and distributing the racy contents of the device all over the Internet earlier this year. The same kid admitted to me in March that he was one of the primary hackers involved in breaking into data aggregator LexisNexis and accessing personal records on more than 310,000 consumers.
According to the Justice Department, the youth also pleaded guilty to hacking into a major wireless carrier in order to provide free cell-phone service for his buddies. When the wireless provider learned of the fraudulent accounts and shut them off, the teen launched a digital assault on the company, temporarily knocking out most of its Web site properties.
He also infiltrated the internal networks at America Online by tricking an employee there into opening a virus-infected e-mail attachment. The teen also called in bomb threats at two different high schools, one of which resulted in the school being closed for two days while a bomb squad, a canine team, the fire department and other emergency officials were called in.
I had a chance to get to know this young man in a series of almost daily online chats and phone conversations over a five-month period earlier this year, and found him to be extremely bright, likable and terribly funny. Unfortunately, he fits a profile that is sadly all too common among young hackers: He had little or no trouble circumventing adult supervision, and his online activities served mainly to bolster his ego, which led to increasingly daring and destructive exploits.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, he will be serving 11 months' detention, which according to his buddies is actually home confinement at a relative's residence. The detention will be followed by two years' supervised release, and he is barred from using a computer or phone that can access the Internet during his detention and probation.
I sincerely hope that during this time he learns that he can use his considerable creativity and skills for something productive. I firmly believe that there are plenty of mischievous hackers out there who -- if they have a positive role model to look up to and can manage to make it through their teenage years without doing stupid stuff that will land them in prison -- can actually contribute a great deal to society.
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