US charges ‘prolific’ Swiss hacker with fraud and identity theft

NEW YORK (AFP) – A Swiss software engineer has been indicted on charges of identity theft, conspiracy and fraud, the United States (US) Justice Department said on Thursday, a week after the same hacker took credit for breaching a security camera startup and exposing surveillance footage.

According to US authorities, 21-year-old Till Kottmann is a “prolific Swiss computer hacker” who alongside co-conspirators has stolen credentials, private records and proprietary information from dozens of companies and government agencies since 2019.

The stolen files and records of more than 100 entities were posted online for public viewing and download, the grand jury indictment released on Thursday said.

Kottmann has previously taken credit for hacking carmarker Nissan as well as for joining the recent breach of California security camera company Verkada, which included tapping into 150,000 live feeds from hospitals, schools, jails and carmaker Tesla and then posting images to Twitter.

Known online as “deletescape” and “tillie crimew”, Kottmann told Bloomberg last week that the Verkada hack was inspired by “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”.

Acting US Attorney Tessa Gorman rejected Kottmann’s ideology.

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

Kottmann faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of wire fraud or conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The Justice Department also said that Swiss authorities had conducted a raid of Kottmann’s home in Lucerne in collaboration with the FBI last week.

“A cyber-criminal could be anywhere in the world. Thanks to our foreign partnerships, international borders won’t provide a haven for their illegal activities,” said FBI agent Donald Voiret.