September 11, 2003

Free Adrian Lamo

There's a website that wants to do just that.

Contrary to the 2600s (not Atari) lying about my house, I'm not part of the hacker culture, and I know little about it - my geekiness is pretty mainstream in the code perspective.

I read about Lamo turning himself in on CNN's website, and I had to know more.

Wired gives a better profile.

    More than a year later, Lamo is becoming widely known in hacker circles for tiptoeing into the networks of companies like Yahoo and WorldCom -- and then telling the corporate guys how he got there.

    Administrators at several of the companies he's hacked have called Lamo brilliant and "helpful" for helping fix these gaps in network defenses.

    Critics blast Lamo as a charlatan who preens for the spotlight.

    Lamo's latest move: using a back door in The New York Times' intranet to snag the home phone numbers of over 3,000 Op-Ed contributors, including Vint Cerf, Warren Beatty and Rush Limbaugh.

    Although Lamo (pronounced LAHM-oh) did nothing more mischievous with the information than include himself in its roster of experts, the Times is considering pressing charges, according to spokeswoman Christine Mohan. Hacking is a federal crime, currently punishable by five years in jail.
Expert indeed. The rest of the story gets more personal (and therefore more interesting).

    "Strictly speaking, he is a criminal. The law doesn't take into account motivation," security consultant Winn Schwartau said.

    Lamo answered, "If (the government) were to decide to indict (me), I'd rather everything be on the up and up -- inasmuch as you can be on the up and up when you're committing a federal crime."

It's similar to the man who shipped himself in a crate. It was harmless in the end, but now we're all watching because it's been exposed. And how horrid it could be indeed.

So, software companies, how would you like the security holes in your product exposed?

(As an aside, I like this story because it challenges my black-and-white view of the world. This one's uncomfortably gray. Lamo doesn't make it so with his "if the government were to decide to indict me" comment. That's pretty clear, and I appreciate that.)


Posted by hln at September 11, 2003 09:47 PM | Geek