Police probe Frenchman who hacked Obamas Twitter

PARIS: French police today investigated how a 25-year-old unemployed man who lives with his parents hacked into dozens of online services, including US President Barack Obama’s Twitter feed.

The man — known by his online pseudonym “Hacker Croll” — was arrested in central France on Tuesday after a joint operation by French police and FBI agents. He has been bailed and is due to appear in court on June 24.

He is accused of breaking into dozens of Twitter and Google accounts — including one used by Obama and, reportedly, by pop star Britney Spears — and of posting screen shots of private pages on online hacker forums.

“He was a young man spending time on the Internet. He acted as a result of a bet, out of the arrogance of the hacker. He is the type who likes to claim responsibility for what he has done,” said prosecutor Jean-Yves Coquillat. Hacking into a database is a crime in France which carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.

San Francisco-based Twitter did not immediately reply to an email from AFP about the arrest while the FBI said it was looking into the report.

In July, leading US technology blog TechCrunch.com reported that it had received a file containing 310 confidential corporate and personal documents from “Hacker Croll” about Twitter and Twitter employees, TechCrunch said the documents included executive meeting notes, partner agreements, financial projections, calendars, phone logs, office plans, and other information. The blog published some of the documents. Twitter founder Evan Williams confirmed to TechCrunch at the time that documents had been obtained in the attack, but insisted the hacker did not gain access to any Twitter user accounts. The hacker, had also attacked Facebook pages and email accounts operated by Google and other providers, French police said.

But he did not profit financially from his activities on Twitter, a wildly popular “micro-blogging” service on which users can send out messages of 140 characters or less to registered followers, they added.

He managed to secure Twitter passwords and was able to create, modify or delete accounts at will, the source said, adding that the suspect set up a blog to share his discoveries.

Hacker Croll had no particular technological expertise, police said, but simply guessed passwords by working them out from information on blogs or online pages users had created about themselves, police said.