‘Hacktivist’: Prosecution on a ‘smear’ campaign

In his first remarks in court, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg gives up the nicknames of those he blames for remotely using his computer to hack into public database.

'Hacktivist': Prosecution on a 'smear' campaign
Gottfrid Svartholm Warg. Photo: Bertil Ericson/Scanpix
Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg on Wednesday revealed the internet handles of five computer hackers he claims had remote access to the computers used to carry out the biggest computer hack in Danish history.
At the risk of being labelled a "snitch", the 29-year-old 'hacktivist' said he had disclosed the four nicknames – eraser, ripley, nohyp, and rbl – in his first interview with Danish Police.
"I gave a complete explanation to the Danish Police several times," Warg said as he was cross-examined for the first time by Anders Riisager, the deputy public prosecutor. "The motivation to investigate has been equal to zero. There has been every opportunity to find out their names. You have had more than a year to do so."
He told the court that he did not want to give the names himself, for fear of retaliation.
"I don't want to be called a traitor and a rat," he said. "I am currently in detention and it was be a risk to my own physical health. You as a prosecutor should know how dangerous it could be."
In his two trials in Sweden in 2013, Warg refused to give any details to Swedish police of the membership of The Lattice Team, the loose group of hackers he claims he had given access to the Macbook used to carry out hacking attacks on Logica, Nordea, and CSC, and who he said he suspected may have been responsible.
As he launched his cross-examination, Riisager continued the aggressive tactics with which he began the prosecution on Tuesday, asking Warg to comment on an article in Khmer440, an expat news site in Cambodia, which claimed that by the time of his arrest in 2012, he was "messed up on drugs", and "a total recluse" whose only contacts were "his dealers and landlord."
Warg refused to comment, accusing Riisager of attempting to "smear" or "cast dirt" on him.
Riisager showed the court a picture of Svartholm Warg looking thin and dishevelled at the time of his arrest.
Svartholm Warg's defence lawyer Luise Høj attacked the prosecution for its "aggressive" start to the trial, protesting that a video shown of squalid conditions in his Phnom Penh apartment at the time of his arrest was "totally irrelevant".
"It was aggressive, but I didn't expect anything else," Høj told The Local, as she arrived at the Frederiksberg courtroom on Wednesday morning for the second day of the trial.
"I'm surprised that they showed a video that's totally irrelevant," she added, pointing out that the prosecution had tried to stop her calling computer security expert Jacob Appelbaum as a witness, arguing that there was insufficient time.
She accused the prosecutor of trying to paint a negative picture of her client to sway the minds of the eight jurors in the case.
"This case is about what kind of evidence we have, but it's also about character," Høj said. "Was it really untidy? When you look at pictures of [apartments after] a visit from the police, they are always untidy afterwards."
Riisager defended his decision to show the video, which, he said his counterparts in Sweden had decided not to air in court.
"It's interesting to see where he lived, how it looked like, where his computer equipment was," he said. "It gives at least more of an impression that he was on his computer all day long. The Macbook was in the bedroom and it was connected to a stationary computer, and they were wired together."
Warg and his 21-year old Danish co-defendant are accused of hacking into Danish computer mainframes operated by US IT giant CSC, stealing social security numbers from Denmark's national driving licence database, illegally accessing information in a Schengen Region database and hacking into police email accounts.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Denmark like a ‘banana republic’ in hacker case

Activist and writer Peter Kofod argues that the trial of Swedish Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg represented a total failure on the part of the Danish police and legal system.

Denmark like a 'banana republic' in hacker case
Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, but has appealed the decision. Photo: Bertil Ericson/Scanpix
Swedish Pirate Bay Founder (and WikiLeaks-volunteer) Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, also known as Anakata, and a young Danish computer specialist were convicted on Thursday in what has been called the biggest hacking attack in Danish history. The two young men are charged with hacking the US-based company CSC, which contracts for the Danish state. CSC, among other things, is supposed to handle highly sensitive data about citizens in Denmark: social security numbers, driving licences and the database containing information about European Arrest Warrants. 
Both suspects have been held in remand under miserable and highly problematic conditions since 2013. Prior to his arrest, Anakata was dragged through a very similar case in Sweden, in which he was found not guilty of hacking into Nordea. 
What happened in court on Thursday was a full frontal assault on Denmark as a country with a rule of law. Two individuals were convicted of serious crimes without a shred of evidence of their guilt being presented in court. At this point I should clarify: I’m NOT saying they’re innocent – or that they’re guilty. I have no way of knowing and in principle it doesn’t matter at all. What’s important is, that NOBODY can know, because no evidence has been presented proving that they are guilty as charged. We’re in banana republic territory here. 
For instance, the leading judge said in court that when it came to the most crucial technical detail in the case – Anakata’s claim that his computer was remotely accessed – the defendant couldn’t prove his innocence. That’s absolutely insane. People aren’t supposed to have to prove their innocence. In a civilised country, people can be convicted if – and only if – the prosecution is able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are guilty. That simply didn’t happen here in Denmark on Thursday. 
Somehow they nevertheless got away with it, perhaps because the case is of a technical nature (hacking, remote access and other geeky stuff) and because the case has been framed so as to show that the defendants are a couple of nasty bastards. Both matters naturally should be of no consequence. It doesn’t matter if a case is highly technical – or if the defendants are paedophiles, Nazis or communists. One should still have the right to a fair trial. In this case, the two defendants simply didn’t get that. 

Instead we’ve seen police and prosecution lie to parliament about hugely important matters in the case. 

We’ve seen the police lie to the judge in court (minutes after being told that they had the duty to tell the truth). They even got caught lying, but suffered no consequences at all.
We’ve also seen that CSC, which is getting rich taking care of all of our sensitive data, has been so extremely poor at securing their systems (or so indifferent) that a bunch of monkeys with typewriters would’ve been able to do a better job. In short: it didn’t take a ‘super hacker’ to get access to the systems.

Whatever else is true in this shameful show trial, one thing is crystal clear: CSC should be facing prosecutions as well. And they will. 

Finally we’ve seen that the Danish police were awfully negligent in investigating what everybody in Denmark says is the most important case of its kind ever:  They sat on their hands for eight months after Swedish police told them that CSC was being hacked and begged them to take action. Afterwards the Danish police lied to parliament and the court about it. They also let CSC investigate the crime instead of doing it themselves. The same CSC that is a key part to the case. The same CSC that has everything to hide because the company would love to extend its lucrative contracts with the Danish state. When was the last time a private company was allowed to investigate themselves? It’s absurd!

If I call the police and claim that my neighbour killed my wife, I don’t think the police will rely exclusively on my version of events. I certainly don’t hope so. I’d want them to first of all check IF my wife is indeed dead. If she is, hopefully they’ll investigate all leads, both those pointing to our neighbour as the perpetrator and those pointing towards other suspects (including myself).  
But that hasn’t happened in this ‘trial of century’. Instead the company has investigated their own systems while the police lied through their teeth and refused to look at anything relevant to the case except for the bits and pieces that could incriminate the two suspects. 
This is a full blown scandal – and it’s really, really important that the media, international as well as Danish, begin treating it as such. This IS a full frontal attack on the rule of law. Next time, the case might not be highly technical – and the suspects might not be people that can be considered weird, nasty bastards. Then we’re all fucked. 
Peter Kofod is a Danish writer, activist & musician.
 He was the first – and so far only – Scandinavian to interview NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
 Peter is currently writing his first book. 
You can follow him on Twitter at @peterkofod