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US charges Swiss hacker for data theft and leaks

File photo, a security camera is shown on the second floor of a row of rooms at a motel in the USA. Hackers said they were aiming to call attention to the dangers of mass surveillance Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The United States Justice Department has charged a Swiss hacker with computer intrusion and identity theft, a week after a house raid by the Swiss police.

This content was published on March 19, 2021 - 09:47
AP/Reuters/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

Till Kottmann, 21, has taken credit for helping to break into a US security-camera company’s online networks. The hacker justified the actions as an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of mass surveillance.

The hacker remains in Lucerne in Central Switzerland and has been notified about the pending charges, the US attorney's office in Seattle said in a statementExternal link on Thursday.

US federal prosecutors said that Kottmann was initially charged in September. The range of allegations date back to 2019 and involve stealing credentials and data and publishing source code and proprietary information from more than 100 entities, including companies and government agencies.

Kottmann had described the most recent hack and leak of camera footage from customers of California security-camera provider Verkada as part of a “hacktivist" cause of exposing the dangers of mass surveillance. Acting US Attorney Tessa Gorman rejected those motives in a statement on Thursday.

According to the Associated Press, it's not clear if US prosecutors intend to extradite Kottmann. The US statement said that the case was being investigated by the FBI Seattle Cyber Task Force and was being prosecuted in the United States, with assistance from “Canton of Lucerne Police, the Canton of Lucerne Prosecutor's Office, and the Swiss Federal Office of Justice”. 

Kottmann has not immediately responded to requests for comment from news agencies.

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