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Hacker cracks T-Mobile network

Engineer charged with reading files over seven months

WASHINGTON -- A hacker broke into a wireless carrier's network over at least seven months and read e-mails and personal computer files of hundreds of customers, including the Secret Service agent investigating the hacker, the government said yesterday.

The hacker obtained an internal Secret Service memorandum and part of a mutual assistance legal treaty from Russia. The documents contained ''highly sensitive information pertaining to ongoing . . . criminal cases," according to court records.

The break-in targeted the network for Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile USA, which has 16.3 million customers in the United States. It was discovered during a broad Secret Service investigation, ''Operation Firewall," which targeted underground hacker organizations known as Shadowcrew, Carderplanet, and Darkprofits.

The hacker was able to view the names and Social Security numbers of 400 customers, all of whom were notified in writing about the break-in, T-Mobile said. It said customer credit card numbers and other financial information never were revealed.

''Safeguarding T-Mobile customer information is a top priority for the company," said a spokesman, Peter Dobrow. He said T-Mobile discovered the break-in late in 2003 and ''immediately took steps that prevented any further access to this system."

Court records said the hacker had access to T-Mobile customer information from at least March through October last year.

The Secret Service said its agent, Peter Cavicchia, should not have been using his personal handheld computer for government work. Cavicchia, a respected investigator who has specialized in tracking hackers, was a T-Mobile customer who coincidentally was investigating the T-Mobile break-in, according to court documents and a Secret Service spokesman, Jonathan Cherry.

Nicolas Lee Jacobsen, 21, of Santa Ana, Calif., a computer engineer, has been charged with the break-in in US District Court in Los Angeles.

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