By Lisa Vaas
November 8, 2007
WabiSabiLabi has confirmed that its founder Roberto Preatoni remains in
custody on spying charges.
WabiSabiLabi, the eBay of security vulnerabilities, confirmed that its
founder and strategy director has been arrested in connection with an
ongoing spying investigation and remains custody in Milan.
Italian news media reported that Roberto Preatoni was arrested on Nov. 5
and charged with unauthorized access to computer systems and
WabiSabiLabi, which was launched in July, apparently doesn't know much
more about Preatoni's troubles beyond what Italian journalists are
reporting. From those articles, though, it appears that the charges have
to do with work that predates WabiSabiLabi's founding.
"From newspaper reports we presume the arrest relates to events in
2003/04 when his former company was hired by Telecom Italia's Security
division to safeguard Telecom Italias' interests and are unrelated to
WabiSabiLabi in any way," according to the company's statement, which
was released on Nov. 8. The statement said that WabiSabiLabi could not
comment on the ongoing investigation or statements being made in the
WabiSabiLabi was founded with the premise that security researchers
should receive a fair price for their findings, as opposed to giving
away vulnerabilities for free or selling them to cyber-criminals.
According to news reports, Preatoni's problems stemmed from
penetration-testing work on Telecom Italia's information security system
that he was doing as a contractor. He was one of 10 staffers with a
security firm called Tiger Team. Members of that team have been charged
with intercepting communications and spying on Carla Cicothe
Italian-born CEO of Brasil Telecomthe Kroll investigative agency, and
journalists Fausto Carioti and David Giacalone of the newspaper Libero.
Four Tiger Team staffers had already been arrested in January for
allegedly installing a Trojan in order to steal data from an Italian
publisher, Rizzoli Corriere della Sera.
Those who know Preatoni are viewing the charges with extreme skepticism.
Sunbelt Software President Alex Eckelberry, for one, stuck up for
Preatoni in a posting on Nov. 6, saying that Preatoni is well-respected
in security circles and that he's been a "staunch advocate of civil
liberties in the post 9/11 world."
"I find Preatoni's alleged guilt quite hard to believe," Eckleberry
wrote. "Preatoni might have been controversial at times, but I find it
more than highly unlikely that he would have used his skills to hack
illegally. The problem is that there is not an abundance of technology
know-how in jurisprudence, and one can only hope that he gets treated
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