'Homeless hacker' Lamo surrenders to feds

Celebrated computer hacker Adrian Lamo surrendered Tuesday morning to U.S. Marshals at the federal courthouse in Sacramento, California, according to a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spokeswoman.

The surrender followed reports last week that the FBI was investigating Lamo's alleged unauthorized intrusion into the internal networks of The New York Times in February 2002. The Times learned of the break-in after Lamo contacted the company through SecurityFocus reporter Kevin Poulsen, according to Christine Mohan, a spokeswoman at The New York Times.

Lamo frequently trespassed on the networks of prominent companies, uncovering security holes and accessing sensitive information. He then informed the companies of his exploits and often worked with them, as a consultant, to close the holes.

In March, Lamo discovered and then voluntarily disclosed a number of security holes in the popular Blogger Web log publishing tool to Pyra Labs, which owns Blogger. The company patched the holes and posted an effusive "thank you" to Lamo on its Web site.

Unfortunately for Lamo, the Times was not as receptive after learning of his wanderings on its corporate intranet.

"The New York Times contacted the authorities after we learned of the breach and addressed the (security) holes internally," Mohan said. "We didn't contact (Lamo) then and we have no plans to do so now."

Lamo's case had become something of a media circus, with the young hacker giving numerous interviews in recent days to Poulsen and other reporters declaring his intention to surrender, then failing to show up at the appointed time and place.

His parents were quoted appealing for his safety and saying that federal agents were watching their home and following their movements in an effort to apprehend Lamo.

Despite giving numerous interviews from his cell phone, however, Lamo never spoke to the FBI directly, according to Karen Ernst, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Sacramento.

"Mr. Lamo hasn't been in touch with our office directly. He's been doing all his communications with the media," she said.

Media people were "in tow" when Lamo surrendered, she said.

Lamo will appear in court Tuesday afternoon and bail will be set. He will then appear at a detention hearing, after which he could be transferred to New York to appear in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the charges against him were filed.

A spokesman at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York had no comment on the case Tuesday afternoon.

Multiple calls seeking comment from the Federal Public Defenders Office in Sacramento, which is reported to be representing Lamo, were not returned.

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Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
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