September 5, 2003 4:00 PM PDT

'Homeless hacker' may surrender to FBI

Adrian Lamo, the so-called homeless hacker who claims responsibility for a series of high-profile electronic intrusions over the last two years, is negotiating with the FBI to surrender over criminal charges.

Lamo, 22, said his attorney is talking with the U.S. Attorney's office in New York City over unspecified allegations of criminal misconduct. On Thursday, FBI agents showed up at his parents' home in Sacramento, Calif., Lamo said in a telephone interview Friday evening, during which he would not disclose his location.

"(The FBI agents) went to my parents' house to try to find me there," Lamo said. "Since then, I've been told they're looking for me. But I've had no direct contact with them."

Mary French, a deputy public defender in Sacramento who is representing Lamo, provided a statement that said: "We have confirmed that there is a sealed complaint from the Southern District of New York and a federal arrest warrant for (Lamo)."

Lamo, whose brazen exploits, media savvy and rootless lifestyle have made him something of a legend in hacker circles, indicated that he's willing to give himself up after he learns what the charges against him are. "I wanted to know more about the counts against me, before I agreed to surrender to face them," he said.

On Aug. 22, Lamo contacted CNET News.com to say he believed a federal criminal investigation of his intrusions into The New York Times' computers had been accelerated. But he was unable to confirm the situation until the FBI agents showed up on Thursday, he said.

"We have been cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of the security breach that happened in February 2002," Christine Mohan, a spokeswoman for The New York Times Co., said on Friday. "We've cooperated with them since that breach, and we're continuing to do so."

Mohan would not provide details of the cooperation. She would not say whether the company had filed a criminal complaint against Lamo after the intrusion took place.

In that incident, which New York Times Digital confirmed at the time, Lamo was able to view employee records, including Social Security numbers. He was also able to access the contact information for the paper's sources and columnists, including such well-known contributors as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former Marine Col. Oliver North and hip-hop artist Queen Latifah.

Lamo also claims to be responsible for intrusions into systems at MCI WorldCom in December 2001, Microsoft in October 2001, Yahoo in September 2001, and Excite@Home in May 2001. When he entered Yahoo's system, Lamo found he was able to alter news articles on the company's site.

Many, if not all, of these intrusions appear to violate the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which calls for punishment of anyone who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access" with fines and between one and five years in prison, depending on the charges.

The U.S. Attorney's office in New York City did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to these intrusions, Lamo is known for his homeless-hacker lifestyle. He has no fixed address, and instead wanders around the United States on Greyhound buses, sleeping on friends' couches and, when necessary, staying in vacant or derelict buildings. Especially now that he knows the FBI is after him, Lamo said: "I'm in constant motion. Like Saddam Hussein, no two nights in one place."

 

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