Ericsson hacker charged with spying

A 26 year old Hungarian was charged with espionage against the Ericsson Group at Stockholm district court on Tuesday.

According to the prosecution, the man hacked into the Ericsson Group’s internal, global computer network and from March 2002 to June 2004 downloaded secret information concerning a number of Ericsson’s subsidiary companies.

Tuesday’s Expressen named the man as Csaba Richter, a computer consultant from a small town just north of Budapest who is not believed to have any other connections to Sweden.

Richter apparently accessed company databases from the small town of Lund in southern Sweden, Los Angeles and the Mongolian capital Ulan-Bator.

After obtaining top secret codes to mobile telephone systems his plan was to sell the valuable information to the highest bidder. But Sweden’s security police, Säpo, succeeded in stopping him in his tracks.

Following an extensive investigation Richter was lured to Sturups Airport, near Malmö, where he was arrested in October last year. He has since been remanded in custody.

During questioning he told Säpo he wanted to alert Ericsson to its defective computer security system which he labelled “embarrassing”.

“He said that he wanted to draw attention to Ericsson’s lack of security with the aim of getting a job with the company,” stated chief prosecutor Thomas Lindstrand.

“He is not a known criminal. We haven’t found anything which leads us to believe that he has sold the information further.”

According to Swedish Radio, part of the information accessed by Richter included military and defence secrets which could have seen the case spiral into a national security issue.

The investigation, which has been shrouded in secrecy, has been compiled into a lengthy 3,000 page dossier. Svenska Dagbladet reported that the document gives the impression of a young computer enthusiast who has a naïve understanding of company secrecy and security.

But Lindstrand has rejected Richter’s claims that it is easy to hack into Ericsson’s computer system.

“Obviously there is a lack in security but he is incredibly intelligent and has worked very systematically,” he said.

Expressen reported that friends of Richter described him as “a world class computer genius”.

“He can do everything, absolutely everything,” they said.

When court proceedings begin on March 15, Richter will face charges of serious corporate espionage and unauthorised handling of secret information, charges which could result in an eight-year prison sentence.

Ericsson is saying little about the scale of damage caused by Richter.

“It is obviously troubling but at the same time it is good that it was discovered and that we could stop him,” the company’s director of information Henry Sténson told Swedish Radio.

“It is a question of discipline and not losing focus when it comes to IT security.”

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, SR