Computer Hacker Turned Hero

This story is about a unique twist in the usual story of computer hacking. It was reported in a recent article in CNet News.

It started out ordinarily enough. A hacker seeded a Usenet newsgroup with a Trojan horse program, called SubSeven or Sub7. Once installed, it created a backdoor into the victim’s computer to allow files to be extracted and a keystroke logger to be installed. Of course, the motive here is fraud and identity theft. Yawn.

What the hacker discovered was that the victim had an extensive and active collection of child pornography. On July 16, 2000, the hacker, identified only as “1069” sent an email to the Montgomery, Ala., police department saying, “I found a child molester on the Net.” The email included an attached photograph of what looked like a girl no older than 6 being sexually abused. A year later he contacted the police again to finger yet another molester.

To make a long story–which you should read yourself– short, the subsequent relationship which developed to feed information from 1069 to police led to the arrest and conviction of two different child molesters. One was sentenced to 17 years in prison, and the other to 19 years in prison.

Both have appealed, and continue to appeal, based primarily on two points:
1- the information was gathered illegally through hacking
2- informant 1069 was working as an agent of the police and therefore none of the evidence should be submissable.

Thus far the courts have held firm on the convictions based on the fact that 1069 is allegedly not a citizen of the U.S. (supposedly from Turkey) and therefore not accountable for the hacking, and also that he gathered the evidence and turned it over to the police on his own, and not as their agent.

Ultimately the police officer wrote to 1069 applauding his efforts, assuring he would not be prosecuted for the hacking, and stated, “You have helped to save at least two lives in the U.S. and (you) should be proud of that fact.”

I don’t think there’s a reader among you who isn’t glad that child-molesting scum have been put behind bars for a good long time. But is it just me, or are you queasy at the thought of a computer hacker being applauded for stealing information off a computer?

I guess there are some things even a scoundrel and thief cannot tolerate, and child molestation is one of them. Maybe that’s where “honor among thieves” comes from?

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