By Kevin Poulsen
December 03, 2007
The FBI is circling around a blind 17-year-old phone hacker in Boston
suspected of being the brains behind a gang of phone phreaks who sent
police SWAT teams bursting into the homes of party line foes.
But the teen, known on the lines as "Li'l Hacker," says he actually
helped the FBI bust the gang's ringleader, 40-year-old Stuart Rosoff,
who he describes as an enemy.
"I'm actually against those people," the teenager told THREAT LEVEL in a
phone interview. "Mr. Rosoff and I are at odds ... He actually came
after me and disconnected my phone service, but of course I had it
turned back on instantly."
Because he is a minor, and hasn't been charged with a crime, THREAT
LEVEL is not reporting Li'l Hacker's real name. He's identified in court
documents by the initials M.W.
Blind from birth, Li'l Hacker admits to a deep and abiding interest in
telecommunications from the age of eight. He can identify touch-tones by
sound, commit vast amounts of information to memory in an instant, and
he once ordered manuals for DMS and #5 ESS switching gear then paid a
transcription service to convert them to Braille.
But, contrary to the FBI's allegations in court documents, the teenager
never helped Rosoff and other SWATters use a Caller ID spoofing service
to phone in fake hostage reports to police, he claims, or use social
engineering skills to obtain information on the gang's targets.
"If I get charged, to be honest with you dude, I'm not going to hold
anybody responsible for anything that I've done," he says. "I don't do
SWATs, that's the thing."
Stuart Rosoff of Cleveland, Ohio (left, in a 2004 mugshot) pleaded
guilty to one count of conspiracy last month in federal court in the
Northern District of Texas. In his plea deal, he stipulated that he
worked with Li'l Hacker to obtain "telephone numbers, pass phrases,
employee identification numbers, and employee account information used
by the conspirators by various means including through 'social
engineering' or pretexting of telephone calls to telecommunications
company employees, 'war dialing', trafficking in pass phrases and access
information with other phone 'phreakers,' etc."
Li'l Hacker, though, says he told the FBI all about Rosoff, and
confessed co-conspirator Guadalupe Santana Martinez, when two agents
interviewed him last year. "Not snitching, merely revenge," he says.
The pair had targeted his mother, he says, phoning her up and
threatening to call the Secret Service on the family. "She didn't know
what was going on because she didn't know what I was involved in."
In court documents, the FBI accuses Li'l Hacker of, in effect, hacking
with his voice. He allegedly made more than 50 pretext phone calls to
the Verizon Provisioning Center in Irving, Texas, "and obtained
unauthorized access to the computers located there, and used the access
to obtain telecommunications services including Caller I.D. blocking and
He says he didn't do it. "I wouldn't do it directly if I was going to
... If I were to do that, hypothetically speaking."
The FBI also says the teen has the ability to listen in on phone calls
-- he declined to comment on that. He also allegedly gained access to
the network operations center of Frontier Telecommunications in
Rochester, New York, in October and November 2006. Li'l Hacker says he
really just called a mysterious phone number somebody gave him in a chat
"I made a mistake and dialed into a number, and apparently it was the
NOC," he says. "I didn't log into anything ... I heard a tone, and said,
'What the hell is this?' And I just hung up."
He says the dialup wasn't even a computer modem. He knows, because he
can identify different types of modems by ear. " I know the songs."
Li'l Hacker has some light perception, and he attends a local high
school with sighted students, using a PAC Mate portable Braille display.
He has not been charged with a crime, but he turns 18-years-old in
April, and some of his friends are worried. Counting Rosoff, three
people have pleaded guilty in the SWATting case: Martinez last April,
and co-defendant Angela Roberson in October. All three have named Li'l
Hacker as a co-conspirator.
Two other defendants, Jason Trowbridge and Chad Ward, are set for trial
in Texas this month.
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