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Security researcher cuffed in Telecom Italia spying probe

Preatoni held by carabiniere

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High profile security industry personality Roberto Preatoni was among those arrested on Monday by Italian police investigating an ongoing spying scandal involving Telecom Italia.

Preatoni, founder of security start-up WabiSabiLabi and defacement archive Zone-H, was charged on suspicion of computer hacking and wiretapping, according to local reports. A spokeswoman for WabiSabiLabi confirmed that the Preatoni held by Italian police is the same person as the WabiSabiLabi founder, but was unable to shed much light on the matter. Preatoni remains in Italian police custody, she confirmed, but was unable to say whether or not he'd been charged with any offence. The operation of WabiSabiLabi, which runs a security vulnerability auction site, is proceeding in his absence.

Preatoni's arrest predates his involvement with WabiSabiLabi and involves his work as a penetration tester. A team of security consultants ostensibly hired to test the security of Telecom Italia's security systems allegedly used Trojan horse malware and illegal wiretap techniques techniques to spy on targets including Carla Cico, chief exec of Brasil Telecom, the Kroll investigative agency, and journalists Fausto Carioti and David Giacalone of Italian newspaper Libero, IDG reports.

The scandal has been front page news in Italy for some months. Last January, four people were charged with spying in connection with the affair including Fabio Ghioni, vice president and security CTO at Telecom Italia, and Giuliano Tavaroli, the telco's former head of security. The charges follow the September 2006 arrest of the Telecom Italia pair over alleged abuse of wiretaps.

Preatoni cut a colourful figure in the sometimes staid world of information security, which in recent years has become more dominated by men in suits spouting meaningless marketing platitudes. As well as founding several edgy security start-ups, he lectured at University of Urbino and co-wrote editions of the hacker comic Hero-Z. He is a regular on the security conference circuit and noted as a strong defender of civil liberties in the post 9/11 world. ®

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