ZIFFPAGE TITLECovering Their Tracks contd

By Deborah Gage Print this article Print

Crime is now organized on the Internet. Operating in the anonymity of cyberspace, the Shadowcrew and Web mobs like it threaten the trust companies have spent years trying to build with customers, online.


Covering Their Tracks, contd.

Cavicchia had been using the account to communicate with online criminals. "You have to be crafty to deal with informants," Frazzini says. "They can't very well communicate with you on your Secret Service e-mail account." But, he says, Cavicchia also was receiving documents mailed by the Secret Service.

Ethics began monitoring Cavicchia, collecting Secret Service documents and recording Cavicchia's T-Mobile chat sessions. There he learned that at least one Shadowcrew member's ICQ number was under surveillance.

Frazzini says it's an indication of "the cat-and-mouse game" that is part of the underworld of cyberspace. "It's like rats running around out there," he says. "And they got him."

T-Mobile spokesman Peter Dobrow says the company had been working with the Secret Service since October 2003 to identify the hacker.

Jacobsen pleaded guilty in February to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer and recklessly causing damage. His sentencing is scheduled for May 16. His plea agreement has been sealed by the government, and his attorney, Greg Wesley of the Federal Public Defender's office in Los Angeles, will not discuss his case.

But the Secret Service had made its way up the Shadowcrew organization chart—with its informant placed high in the hierarchy. That helped trap Ethics, according to the affidavit against Jacobsen.

Tipped to the existence of the Secret Service documents by a Shadowcrew member, the informant got Ethics to confirm that he was the individual who had found the documents in Cavicchia's T-Mobile account. And the rats ran around again.

A few days later, Ethics asked the informant for a proxy server so he could "browse and log in to a site with the credentials of a USSS Agent." The informant provided a server controlled by the Service's Newark field office. So, the Secret Service was able to track Ethics tracking Cavicchia.

This article was originally published on 2005-03-07
Senior Writer
Based in Silicon Valley, Debbie was a founding member of Ziff Davis Media's Sm@rt Partner, where she developed investigative projects and wrote a column on start-ups. She has covered the high-tech industry since 1994 and has also worked for Minnesota Public Radio, covering state politics. She has written freelance op-ed pieces on public education for the San Jose Mercury News, and has also won several national awards for her work co-producing a documentary. She has a B.A. from Minnesota State University.

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