US hacker Lamo pleads guilty

Adrian Lamo, the so-called "homeless hacker", has pleaded guilty to charges that he broke into the internal computer network of...

Adrian Lamo, the so-called "homeless hacker", has pleaded guilty to charges that he broke into the internal computer network of The New York Times.

The 22-year-old American could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

Lamo acknowledged hacking into the Times' network in February 2002 and accessing a database containing personal information on more than 3,000 individuals who contributed editorials to the paper's Op-Ed page. He also acknowledged setting up user accounts through the Times account with the LexisNexis online information service, which he used for more than 3,000 searches over a three-month period.

Damages were said to be "in excess of $5,000", a far cry from the more than $300,000 figure given by the US Attorney's office in September.

Lamo spent a number of days in hiding after the government issued a warrant for his arrest in September, before finally surrendering to authorities in Sacramento. The government demandes the notes of reporters who had interviewed Lamo about his exploits at the Times and elsewhere as part of its investigation.

Lamo gained notoriety long before hacking The New York Times for his rootless life on the streets of San Francisco and for admitting to hacking the networks of high-profile companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Worldcom.

Heo confessed to the Times break-in during an interview with Securityfocus.com, a computer security news website, in February 2002. That confession prompted an internal investigation by the Times which uncovered evidence of Lamo's activities and resulted in a case being opened on the Times hack by the FBI.

After pleading guilty, Lamo was released on bail and is required to live at his parents' home in California and have limited access to computers until he is sentenced in April.

Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service

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