A computer intruder accessed personal records and e-mail belonging to T-Mobile telephone customers last year, spying on everything from photos taken with digital-camera-equipped phones to private e-mail sent by a Secret Service agent, according to computer security news Web site SecurityFocus.com.
SecurityFocus reported in its story that twenty-one year-old Nicolas Jacobsen was arrested last October as part of Operation Firewall, a Secret Service sweep of alleged cyber-criminals that netted 28 suspects. But details of Jacobsen's crimes weren't made public at the time.
The story says Jacobsen had his way with T-Mobile computers for a year, during which he was capable of peeking at any customers' Social Security number and date of birth. T-Mobile has more than 16 million customers.
Jacobsen was also able to download e-mail account passwords and voicemail PINs. Using these, Jacobsen spied celebrity e-mails that included photographs taken with mobile camera phones. The report says the suspect claimed to have obtained private pictures of Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton.
T-Mobile said in a statement that the hacker was able to "access a portion of one of its internal computer systems." A company investigation revealed the hacker was able to view the names and Social Security numbers of 400 customers last year. All were notified in writing, the firm said, adding the customer credit card numbers were not accessed.
“Safeguarding T-Mobile customer information is a top priority for the company,” the statement said. It did not address the possibility that a hacker had viewed private photographs of celebrities.
Agent's e-mail targeted
Among the victims, according to SecurityFocus: Secret Service Agent Peter Cavicchia. Jacobsen downloaded an internal Secret Service memo and other sensitive information sent by Cavicchia over T-Mobile e-mail systems, according to the story.
Secret Service spokesman Jonathan Cherry confirmed that an agent's personal T-mobile e-mail account had been infiltrated the hacker. But he said the stolen documents were of limited value, and no Secret Service computers were compromised.
"It's true that a personal account of a Secret Service agent, for a time, was compromised. It was not Secret Service servers, it was a personal account, a PDA," Cherry said.
"The account did have very limited investigative materials in it which should not have been kept on a personal PDA," Cherry said. Doing so was against Secret Service policy, he said, but "no investigative operations were compromised."
Cherry would not identify the agent, or say if the agent had been censured. The Associated Press, however, also reported that Cavicchia was the target, and that he was coincidentally investigating the T-Mobile break-in. Cavicchia has since resigned from the Secret Service to work in the private sector, but told AP that he was not asked to leave and that an internal investigation had cleared him.
U.S. Attorney Wesley Hsu, charged with prosecuting the case, said he couldn't comment on it.