A French man who allegedly hacked into the Twitter account of Barack Obama was identified last night as a computer nerd with "smileys" on his slippers who lived with his parents.
The man, 23, who admitted to "not going out much", told the news agency AFP, he was "not a hacker ... just a nice pirate". François C – full name withheld – who lives near Clermont Ferrand in central France, was arrested after a long joint inquiry by the FBI and a special French anti-cyber crime unit.
He reset the email passwords of Twitter administrators by correctly answering their security questions using information from blogs. He admitted using the passwords to break into the accounts of, among others, President Obama and the singers, Britney Spears and Lily Allen. Although he did not post under their names, he was able to see information such as IP addresses, when they were last connected and when they signed up.
But François said that his activities, under the code name "Hacker-croll" were not malicious or criminal, but were simply intended to draw attention to the weaknesses of the Twitter system. "I just wanted to show that big names were not any safer than any ordinary 'internaut'," he said.
Jean-Yves Coquillat, a prosecutor in Clermont-Ferrand, where the suspect will be tried in June for hacking, told the Associated Press: "He says it's the challenge, the game, that made him do it."
François, who has trained as a computer engineer but cannot find a job, said he spent at least 10 hours a day on the internet. He faces up to two years in prison for breaking into private data bases and a €30,000 fine.