Tennessee: The Hacker State?


YouTube vid of a radio interview with “TrainReq,” aka Josh Holly(?), the guy who allegedly hacked Miley Cyrus’s e-mail.
As a son of Nashville, born and raised, I have to ask: why the hell are so many hackers getting busted in the great state of Tennessee, of late?
Okay, I admit — two alleged hackers do not a trend make. And maybe I just notice because I’m from Tennessee. Still…
First there was David Kernell, son of a Democratic Tennessee state lawmaker. The 20-year-old student at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (one of my alma maters) was, per the Dept. of Justice, arrested “for intentionally accessing without authorization the e-mail account of Alaska governor Sarah Palin…” The DOJ alleges that Kernell “obtained unauthorized access to Gov. Palin’s personal e-mail account by allegedly resetting the account password.”
You can see some of the fruits of that alleged labor here, at Wikileaks.org.
Now Wired tells us about 19-year-old Josh Holly of Murfreesboro, TN, a city about 30-40 miles due south of Nashville. Joshie just had a little visit from The Man, aka the FBI. The Feds think Holly is the dude who, using nicks like “TrainReq,” “Rockz” and “h4x,” posted photos of teen pop star Miley Cyrus (damn, another Tennessee connection) online. Come on, you know about those pics — they garnered major attention from really reputable websites like TMZ.com. And by “reputable” I mean “execrable,” but I digress.
The feds have reason to believe Holly hacked Miley’s e-mail and spread her PG-13 photos all over creation — according to Wired, Holly “repeatedly bragged online about breaking into the Disney star’s e-mail account and stealing her photos.”
hackedflag.jpgHolly told Wired that he “got access to Cyrus’s Gmail account after obtaining unauthorized access to a MySpace administrative panel where he found passwords for MySpace accounts stored in cleartext. He found the password Cyrus used for her MySpace account — Loco92 — and tried it on a Gmail account Cyrus was known to use. The password worked on that account as well, but only for a couple of weeks before it was changed.”
Holly’s own hubris might have been his undoing. Kim Zetter’s post in Wired’s “Threat Level” blog (linked at the foot of this entry) states that “[hours]before the FBI arrived at his doorstep, Holly posted a message online bragging that even though he was a known hacker, federal agents would never find him.”
After the agents left his apartment, Holly told “Threat Level” he was “just kind of shaking.”
Holly’s still a free man and he may stay that way. Miley Cyrus is damned famous, and she’s still underaged (don’t know why that seems relevant here, but it does), but she’s not Sarah Palin, with her Secret Service protection and all.
If both David Kernell and Josh Holly do end up doing time, they shouldn’t worry too hard about life afterwards — just read up a little on Kevin Poulsen, a senior editor at Wired and one of the bloggers on “Threat Level.” Hacking may be serious business to Johnny Law, but in the end, after a gifted or showy hacker has paid his dues, he can make a good living doing big business. Hacking’s weird that way.
I’m starting to think my home state is weirder than I already knew. I don’t know if it’s the Royal Crown Cola, the Jack Daniels, all that trailer-brewed crank, or what.
Cyber-security experts: hit up the computer engineering programs at MTSU and UT for new recruits now, before those kids end up in federal prison! [Threat Level from Wired.com. Additional, pointless link: Josh Holly’s MySpace. Says he’s 17, and gives his “TrainReq” nick on the page. See also: Digg this story.]