NY Times hacker sentencing delayed

Lamo awaits fate


Adrian Lamo's sentencing hearing for his 2002 intrusion into the New York Times internal network was postponed this week.

The 22-year-old hacker appeared with his attorney in federal court in New York Thursday for what was originally scheduled to be his sentencing. Instead, federal judge Naomi Buchwald agreed to put off the hearing until 16 June, according to court records, which do not otherwise explain the postponement.

Reached by phone, Lamo declined to comment, as did his lawyer, public defender Sean Hecker.

The reticence is unusual for Lamo, who gained national attention for finding and playfully exploiting gaping security holes at large corporations, including Excite@Home and Worldcom, then openly discussing the details with the press.

The federal case against Lamo began in February, 2002, when, according to court documents, FBI agent Christine Howard read about the New York Times hack on SecurityFocus, which first reported on the incident. Lamo said at the time that he penetrated the Times after a two-minute scan turned up seven misconfigured proxy servers acting as doorways between the public Internet and the Times private intranet, making the latter accessible to anyone capable of properly configuring their Web browser.

Once inside, Lamo exploited weaknesses in the Times password policies to broaden his access, eventually browsing such disparate information as the names and Social Security numbers of the paper's employees, logs of home delivery customers' stop and start orders, instructions and computer dial-ups for stringers to file stories, lists of contacts used by the Metro and Business desks, and the "WireWatch" keywords particular reporters had selected for monitoring wire services.

He also added his real name, phone number and email address to a database of 3,000 contributors to the Times op-ed page, where he listed himself as an expert in "Computer hacking, national security, communications intelligence."

In a plea deal with prosecutors, Lamo plead guilty last January to a single count of computer fraud for cracking the New York Times internal network and recklessly causing damage exceeding $5,000. The prosecution and defense agreed on a six to twelve month sentencing range which, under federal guidelines, could permit Lamo to serve his sentence under house arrest or confined to a halfway house, at the court's discretion. The judge is not bound by the sentencing recommendation, and could sentence Lamo to more or less time. The hacker also potentially faces $15,000 to $20,000 in fines, and could be ordered to pay financial restitution.

Are part of the plea, both sides stipulated that the hacker caused between $30,000 and $70,000 in losses through a combination of his unauthorized use of the Times' Lexis-Nexis account, and his access to an unprotected Microsoft customer service database. (The Microsoft incident, which took place in 2001, was unrelated to the Times intrusion, but was included in the plea as "relevant conduct" for sentencing purposes)

Lamo is now a student at a community college in Sacramento, California, where he's studying journalism. He was originally freed on a $250,000 bond, secured in part by his parent's house, where the court ordered him to live. But on Thursday Lamo was released on his own recognizance, according to court records.

Copyright © 2004, security focus logo

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