Verkada Hacker Charged With Wire Fraud, Identity Theft in U.S.

A Swiss computer hacker who was involved in the intrusion of Verkada Inc., exposing surveillance footage from Tesla Inc., was charged by prosecutors in Seattle with conspiracy, wire fraud and identity theft.

Till Kottmann, 21, and their co-conspirators were accused of hacking dozens of companies and government entities since 2019 and posting private victim data of more than 100 entities on the web in a grand jury indictment released Thursday.

“Stealing credentials and data, and publishing source code and proprietary and sensitive information on the web is not protected speech -- it is theft and fraud,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman in Seattle said in a a statement.

Wire fraud and conspiracy carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison.

Kottmann, who uses they/them pronouns, has an anti-intellectual property ideology.

In an interview, they said their reasons for hacking are “lots of curiosity, fighting for freedom of information and against intellectual property, a huge dose of anti-capitalism, a hint of anarchism -- and it’s also just too much fun not to do it.”

Through the Verkada hack, the group that included Kottmann, gained access to live feeds of 150,000 surveillance cameras inside hospitals, companies, police departments, prisons and schools.

As Bloomberg reported, the hackers were able to view video from inside women’s health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and the offices of Verkada itself.

Kottmann, who’s known as “deletescape” and “tillie crimew” on the web, is in Lucerne, Switzerland, according to U.S. prosecutors. They’ve been notified of the charges, prosecutors said.

Kottmann said on Thursday they had retained a lawyer in Switzerland, Marcel Bosonnet, who had represented Edward Snowden in Switzerland.

“Wrapping oneself in an allegedly altruistic motive does not remove the criminal stench from such intrusion, theft, and fraud,” Gorman said in the statement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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