If you’re a hacker, one of the surest ways to get the attention of the FBI is to brag about your exploits online and say they’ll never find you.
According to Wired magazine’s Threat Level blog, that’s the scenario for 19-year-old hacker Josh Holly, whose Murfreesboro, Tennessee, apartment was raided by the FBI on Monday, months after he allegedly hacked into Miley Cyrus‘ e-mail account, stole provocative photos of the “Hannah Montana” star and posted them online. Holly reportedly bragged quite a bit about how he posed as a MySpace administrator in order to gain access to Cyrus’ Gmail account, where he found some photos that Cyrus had allegedly sent to Nick Jonas.
The hacker had given interviews about his exploits to other bloggers and media outlets (including this one on an Arizona radio station) and often bragged that authorities would never find him because he moved around so much.
But on Monday, the FBI reportedly visited Holly, spoke to him for an hour, served him with a search warrant and presented a list of items they were going to seize, which included three computers and a phone. Undeterred, Holly called Threat Level from his sister’s house hours after the raid to report what happened. At press time, he had not been arrested or charged with any crime.
Last December, using the screen names “TrainReq,” “Rockz” and “h4x,” Holly apparently got access to an old Gmail account used by Cyrus and found the pictures of the then 15-year-old Cyrus in the shower, in a T-shirt baring her belly, in her underwear and in a bikini. He told Threat Level that he tried to sell them to TMZ.com and other gossip sites, but nobody would buy them because of the illegal way they’d been obtained. On his blog, Holly appeared torn about releasing the pictures, writing on August 1, “I might not be leaking the pics, due to the fact of all the hate male (sic). I want to clear up that I DO NOT hate Miley. The reason I leak these is because that’s what people want to see. I feel kinda bad, cause I do know I kinda messed up her career a little.”
Just a day later, though, Holly seemingly got over his moral qualms, writing that “the demand for me to leak them was stronger than the demand … not to leak them.” Though he said he felt bad for posting the photos, he had to “give what the people want.” He then posted some of the photos online at digitalgangster.com, after which numerous gossip and celebrity sites published them for free. All told, Holly said he stole nearly a dozen pictures, but only published the most provocative ones.
Though he’d bragged the feds would never find him, Holly told Threat Level he was finally discovered because of a false fire alarm called in at his apartment a few weeks ago. A local fire marshal, “under the pretense of investigating the prank,” contacted him on Monday asking to meet him at his place to show him the photo of the prank suspect. Fifteen minutes later, the FBI knocked on his door, armed with a dossier of information they’d amassed on his past hacking activities.
“I guess somebody ended up ratting me out,” he told Threat Level. “I was just kind of shaking. I was thrown way off guard. I’ve never had anything like this happen before to a point that I just didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to kick them out of my house.”
Shortly after the hacked shots surfaced — part of a string of provocative photos of the Disney star that have shown up online over the past year — Cyrus apologized for them, saying they were “silly, inappropriate shots.”
Seemingly having learned his lesson, Holly blogged about the incident on Tuesday, writing, “Well, all my idiotic doings have finally caught up with me. Yesterday (October 20th of 08) , the FBI came into my house and took all things that can store data (my computers, my phone, CDs, etc) . … When they came, they said I was not under arrest and no one is pressing charges. They just need evidence to put me down. Well, that is what I get for being an idiot and boast about hacking.” But so much for his remorse: The blog also contains a code that allegedly allows users to illegally download songs from MySpace Music that are intended to be streams only.