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Notorious phone phreaker gets 11 years for swatting

End of the (party) line

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A notorious phone phreaker has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after admitting he took part in a scheme that hacked phone systems to fake emergency 911 calls that sent teams of heavily armed police to the home of unsuspecting victims.

Matthew Weigman, 19, of Massachusetts received 135 months for his part in one attack, which is known as swatting because it is intended to elicit visits by police SWAT teams. Known by the handle "Hacker" and "Little Hacker," the blind youth was a well-known fixture in phone party line groups, which allowed a band of geographically dispersed hackers to congregate and plan their attacks.

In February, Weigman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, victim or informant and one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud. He admitted that he retaliated against a Verizon investigator who reported his phone phreaking activities to the FBI.

In April and May 2008, he and others made false reports to Verizon employees in an attempt to get the investigator fired, prosecutors said. Weigman and his conspirators later drove to the investigator's residence in an attempt to frighten him.

Weigman was already aware that he was the target of an FBI probe, following a raid on his home. But that didn't stop him from continuing a hacking spree designed to intimidate his enemies and give him access to free phone services.

In April 2008, for instance, he used the identities and authorization codes of Verizon employees to reactivate a phone line he had obtained by fraud. He also eavesdropped on various Verizon employees in an attempt to harass them and get information about the status of the investigation pending against him.

Weigman also admitted that in 2006 he helped plan a swatting attack against the father of a party line user. The hackers made it appear to emergency services employees that the call originated from the victim's home. The caller identified himself as the victim and claimed to have shot and killed members of his family and was holding hostages.

Weigman became the target of a federal investigation in 2005 when he was just 15, after sending a police SWAT team to the Colorado house of a girl who refused to participate in phone sex sessions. The Feds considered using Weigman as an informant until they learned he was hacking AT&T on the side. His handler at the time said he couldn't go three days without attempting a hack of one sort or another. Wired.com's Kevin Poulsen has chronicled Little Hacker several times including here and here.

A second defendant, 23-year-old Sean Paul Benton, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to obstruct justice. A third defendant, Carlton Nalley of Virginia, pleaded guilty to the same charges as Weigman, but failed to appear in court last week. ®

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