[ISN] Hacker's Death: Murder or Suicide?

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Sat Nov 28 1998 - 18:27:07 PST

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    Forwarded From: jeradonah lives <jeradonahat_private>
    November 27, 1998
    Hacker's Death: Murder or Suicide?
    Filed at 3:59 p.m. EST
    By The Associated Press
    BERLIN (AP) -- He was a gifted computer whiz -- one of the best, one who'd
    made the jump from illegal tinkering to the legitimate, potentially
    lucrative business of making codes crack-proof from hackers like himself.
    But when Boris Floriciz was found hanging from a tree in a Berlin park on
    Oct. 22, his belt around his neck and his feet dragging the ground, it
    drew attention even outside the tight-knit world of hackers.
    His friends wonder whether he was caught up in the murkier side of the
    trade -- one of spies, espionage and black-market criminals. Was it
    suicide, as police suspect? Or homicide?
    At 26, Floriciz seemed headed for a great future. He'd just finished his
    computer science degree. International firms sought him as a consultant.
    He was happy, say his friends, who cannot believe he would take his own
    Floriciz's friends wonder if he had become a threat to someone on the
    wrong side of the business, leading to his death.
    ``That was not a personal decision,'' Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a friend and
    fellow member of the Chaos Computer Club said. ``For sure not. That was
    >From childhood, Floriciz looked destined to be an engineer. He was always
    taking things apart to see how they worked. ``Radios, television, clocks,
    the lawn mower -- nothing was safe from him,'' his father told Stern
    He disassembled a telephone booth to get at computer data inside.  He was
    the first hacker to crack the microchips on Deutsche Telekom telephone
    cards, used at pay phones in Germany. His homemade card reloaded as the
    credit ran out.
    After getting caught in 1995 and sentenced to probation, Floriciz ``felt
    the need to draw the line,'' said Mueller-Maguhn.
    He joined Chaos, a 10-year-old group of computer devotees, and he went
    back to college, earning his diploma in September by developing a
    scrambler to encode telephone calls on high-speed, digital lines.
    German media reports say Floriciz also was working on cracking decoders
    for pay television -- a booming business spreading across Europe. One of
    the key players is Robert Murdoch, whose digital broadcasting research
    firm NDS Ltd. contacted Floriciz two years ago about being a code-design
    ``He was an exceptionally talented engineer,'' said Margot Field,
    spokeswoman at the firm's London headquarters. NDS wanted to hire him but
    couldn't move forward because Floriciz hadn't yet graduated or completed
    his compulsory military service. The firm's last contact with him was in
    NDS apparently wasn't the only one interested in Floriciz. 
    His father says Floriciz talked several times about being approached by
    people he suspected worked for spy agencies, which are believed to have
    mined the hacker world for talent in the past.
    Just a few months ago, Germany's spy agency tried to hire a hacker to get
    secrets out of Iran's military computers, the Chaos club said. But the
    contact vanished when the hacker got Chaos involved.
    Floriciz may also have attracted black marketeers of counterfeit chips for
    telephone cards and mobile phones. Deutsche Telekom estimates it loses
    millions of dollars each year from counterfeit cards. And industry
    officials worry that TV decoder chips offer gangsters even bigger profits
    on the black market. 
    Money wasn't a lure for Floriciz, his friends say. He preferred to post
    his research on the Internet for all to see -- and use.
    ``It was all the same to him if others raked in the bucks from what he
    developed,'' one friend, Daniel, told Stern. ``The main thing for him was
    that he had proven what he was great at.''
    Mueller-Maguhn says Floriciz's open attitude about his work might have
    threatened those who didn't want competitors horning in on their business.
    ``He had lots of jobs, but he didn't want to become a slave of one
    company,'' he said. ``Maybe that was a problem.''
    Floriciz left his mother's apartment on Oct. 17 at about 2 p.m. She didn't
    think he'd be gone long, because he didn't take his laptop computer.
    He never came back. Calls to his mobile phone went unanswered. 
    A passerby found his body five days later. His phone, keys, ID card and
    money were with him, evidence police say points to suicide. No sign of a
    struggle. Nothing stolen. No drugs.
    Detectives are waiting for test results -- fingerprint fragments or
    chemical traces -- before making a final determination.
    The Chaos Computer Club is putting together its own report, which it plans
    to release at its annual convention Dec. 27-29 in Berlin. Already, the
    death notice on the club's Web site states what Floriciz's friends believe
    ``The circumstances under which he disappeared and his extraordinary
    capabilities lead us to the conclusion that he became a homicide victim.''
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