Suspected Twitter infiltrator: ’I’m a nice hacker’
He’s unemployed and isn’t much of a computer expert. The Frenchman accused of infiltrating Twitter and peeping at the accounts of President Barack Obama and singers Britney Spears and Lily Allen says he wanted to reveal just how vulnerable online data systems are to break-ins - and he says he didn’t mean any harm.
"I’m a nice hacker," suspect Francois Cousteix told France 3 television Thursday, a day after he was released from police questioning, adding that his goal was to warn Internet users about data security.
"Hacker Croll," as he was known online, is accused of breaking into Twitter administrators’ accounts and copying confidential data - as well as peeping at Obama’s and the singers’ accounts, though he didn’t have access to sensitive information about them, a French prosecutor said.
FBI agents sat in on the sessions while French police questioned the young man for two days, said Jean-Yves Coquillat, prosecutor in Clermont-Ferrand, where the suspect will be tried in June for hacking.
If convicted on the charge of breaking into a data system, he risks up to two years in prison and a €30,000 ($40,068) fine. The suspect lives near Clermont-Ferrand in central France.
"He says it’s the challenge, the game, that made him do it," Coquillat said. Officials say preliminary investigations suggest Hacker Croll did not tweet in other peoples’ names or try to make money out of his information.
"He had access to elements that were so confidential that he could very well have profited from them" through blackmail, for example, said Adeline Champagnat of the French police office on information technology crimes.
She compared the hacker’s actions to "a burglar breaking into the headquarters of a big company, able to look at the files of the all employees and clients, with their passwords and confidential information."
"In a way, he succeeded in taking control of Twitter," Champagnat said.
Twitter, based in San Francisco, declined to comment on the case Thursday.
At one point, Champagnat said, the hacker attempted to find a password for Obama’s account but didn’t follow through with it. With administrator access, "he didn’t even need" Obama’s password, she said - but hacking into the president’s account wasn’t his goal.