Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Adrian Lamo, (born 1981, in Massachusetts), is largely considered one of the more misunderstood figures in the computer hacking community. Best known for his alleged unauthorized explorations of corporate networks at companies such as Yahoo!, AOL Time Warner, MCI WorldCom, Microsoft, NSA contractor CSC, and lastly The New York Times, his personal research has focused most closely on the interaction of seemingly unrelated events in complex networks.
Although his pursuits have had incidental applications in computer security, he feels that the same foibles inherent in complex systems that make possible his repeated exploration of highly secure networks are also embodied in entirely unrelated aspects of the offline world. Lamo has often said, "It's less about technology for me, and closer to being about religion."
Lamo is also known for his offline persona as the "homeless hacker", a title he has earned due to his transient lifestyle. Lamo has spent his days squatting in abandoned buildings and travelling to Internet Cafes, Libraries and Universities to exploit security weaknesses in high-profile company networks.
His lifestyle allowed him to travel up and down the coasts of the United States, often by coach, all his important belongings in a backpack on his back.
Despite performing vulnerability assessment for several large, high-profile entities, Lamo has refused to accept payment for his services. Asked by media whether he had ever accepted any payment at all from a customer, he explained that once, while doing vulnerability assessment work for Excite@Home, he was bought a 50 cent bottle of water after becoming thirsty.
Lamo discussed his New York Times break-in with Kevin Poulsen of the SecurityFocus website, where it was reported in an article on 26 February 2002. The Times filed a complaint (described by Lamo as "unsporting") and by May, federal prosecutors in New York had begun an investigation. A warrant for his arrest was issued in September 2003 and Lamo surrendered to the FBI at Sacramento, California on September 9th at 10:15 AM. after spending a few days in hiding. On 8 January 2004 he pleaded guilty to federal computer crime charges. On 15 July 2004, Lamo was sentenced to 24 months of probation, to include six months of home detention.
In an ironic twist, Lamo entered into journalism and photography following his arrest, explaining "What I've always wanted is to take things that are opaque and make them transparent, to understand, to capture the moments in time where things all make sense." He writes for the Sacramento-based American River Current, and freelances occasionally.
Despite his formerly close relationship to the media, Lamo has conspicuously declined to comment in all recently published reports.
Critics have repeatedly labelled Lamo as a publicity seeker or common criminal, fueled by Lamo's refusal to refute them in any public way. "Anything I could say about my person or my actions would only cheapen what they have to say for themselves," was Lamo's only reply when challenged for a response to allegations that he was glamorizing crime for the sake of publicity. Ironically, it was one of Lamo's own actions that took online media down a notch -- his September 2001 modification of series of Yahoo! news articles highlighted both the vulnerability of the medium and, as he put it, overall "reader apathy."
Lamo's thoughts are largely unpublished but have been shared with a small group of researchers in related areas. Privately held works attribute both his easy entry into highly secured networks and his involvement in other, less public phenomena to an amalgamation of separate, unique events and situations at points and times reachable only by an abandonment of any effort to identify patterns related to them.
Published reports indicate Lamo has repeatedly declined to clarify his stance in greater detail for media sources; his sole response to a 2001 interview on the matter was a terse "Faith manages."
- Adrian Lamo's personal site; at adrian.adrian.org
- Losing His Religion: Techfocus interviews Adrian Lamo; Bill Royle, TechFocus undated.
- Feds say Lamo inspired other hackers; Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Sep 16 2004.
- Inside The Hacker Mind Chris Null, New Architect December 2002.
- New York Times Internal Network Hacked; Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Feb 26 2002.
- Lamo Bumped from NBC After Hacking Them; Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Aug 27 2002.
- Adrian Lamo charged with computer crimes; Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Sep 5 2003.
- Lamo Pleads Guilty to Times Hack; Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus Jan 8 2004.
- Articles about Adrian Lamo dating back to 2001; at Freelamo.org
- He Hacks by Day, Squats by Night; Noah Shachtman, Wired News Mar 6 2002.
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