After raid, Australian hacker fears possible arrest
Dylan Wheeler said he won't be surprised if he's arrested for hacking into Microsoft and Sony
IDG News Service - Dylan Wheeler, a computer security and gaming enthusiast who lives near Perth in Western Australia, could very well be in a lot of trouble.
Wheeler, who is in his late teens, is by his own description somewhat of a hacker. He claims to have breached both Microsoft's and Sony's game development networks, extracting software tools used to develop games for the upcoming versions of the Xbox and PlayStation.
Wheeler's escapades have drawn more attention since Perth police raided his family's home on Feb. 19, seizing credit cards, his MacBook Pro, his mobile phone and, all told, about AU$10,000 (US$10,200) worth of technology. Wheeler was questioned but not arrested. He has not been charged with a crime, but an investigation is ongoing.
Like Gary McKinnon, the U.K. hacker who breached NASA and U.S. military systems, and Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last month while facing hacking charges, Wheeler has attracted sympathy from some for actions that could have severe legal repercussions, as prosecutors become more aggressive with computer crime cases.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Wheeler didn't portray himself as someone who got caught. Rather, it's almost that he wanted to get caught.
Police raided his home on the same day that an eBay auction expired that listed a "Durango" PC. Durango is the code name for Microsoft's next Xbox system. Microsoft has a package of software tools that it sells to vetted developers in order to build games for the system.
Wheeler says he placed the listing on eBay under his screen name "Superdae." The listing didn't have a photo, and at the auction's conclusion it allegedly sold for $50,100 after 43 bids were placed.
The listing, Wheeler maintains, was a stunt. "The listing was more for, like, publicity," he said. "It was more just to get people talking."
He continued: "No one pays that kind of price. They bid for the sake of it. There was no obligation to pay." Was he pleased with the response? "Well, I wasn't pleased with the raid," he said.
The eBay listing was the second time Wheeler had provoked Microsoft. In August, he posted his first listing for a "Microsoft Xbox Durango Development Kit." In the same month, Wheeler said, there was a knock at his door. Standing there was Miles Hawkes, whose LinkedIn profile lists him as a senior program manager in investigations for Microsoft's IP Crimes Team.
"Miles knocked on the door one day and said, 'Hi, I'm Microsoft. We believe you have a Durango,'" Wheeler said.
The two had lunch at the Hyatt Hotel in Perth, Wheeler said. Over the next few months they established a friendly rapport. Wheeler said he informed Microsoft of several vulnerabilities in its network.
Wheeler, who is studying on his own to pass Cisco network security certification tests, said he scanned Microsoft's IP range and found network weaknesses that would in theory allow a hacker to shut down power to Microsoft server racks, among other problems.
But he said the company appeared never to take him too seriously. That bothers him.
"I could have leaked pretty much any information on the entire Microsoft network," he claimed. "They could have lost a lot more than the specs of a console."
In a statement, Microsoft said it found no evidence that its corporate network had been compromised. The company also said it "did not initiate this law enforcement investigation with this individual, as has been asserted in some of the articles in the media."
Wheeler said he is also responsible for leaking the same type of game development documentation for Sony's forthcoming PlayStation, which was code-named "Orbis." That hack, however, was more difficult than getting inside Microsoft's developer network.
To gain access to the Sony network, Wheeler said, a hacker needs an account that is listed within Sony's IP range. Sony watermarks its documentation so it can be linked to the person who accessed it, he said, "unlike Microsoft, where you can leak entire documentation and you cannot be identified."
Asked if he gained access to Sony's internal network, Wheeler said, "You can say that, yes." He never heard from Sony.
Since Wheeler's plight has become more public, he's attracted an ever-growing number of Twitter followers expressing their support.
He maintains he never sold the documentation he obtained. Wheeler laughed as he described how police asked him during the raid if he had "any large sums of cash."
"I said 'No, of course not,'" he said.
But he does fear prosecution: "At this point, yes. Pretty much any minute they could just come and arrest me."
Send news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- Mobile Policy Checklist Here's what to consider when putting together a mobile policy designed to support a highly productive workforce.
- Securing BYOD Mobile computing is becoming so ubiquitous that people no longer bat an eye seeing someone working two devices simultaneously. Individuals and organizations are...
- Gartner Report: A Guide to Gartner's Enterprise Mobile Security Self-Assessment Gartner introduces a model and a Toolkit intended to help mobility and security IT leaders assess their enterprise mobility programs from a security...
- Gartner Report: Containing Mobile Security Risks With the 80/20 Rule IT planners can deliver better mobile protection with higher user satisfaction by segmenting users into risk groups before committing to specific management or...
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts