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Hacker behind 2013 NASA website defacement attacks identified by the Italian police

Hacker behind 2013 NASA website defacement attacks identified by the Italian police
  • The suspect claimed to be an important member of the “Master Italian Hackers Team”.
  • The 25-year old man was charged for defacing 60 websites, including NASA’s.

A 25-year-old Italian man pleaded guilty to defacing NASA’s website and 60 other websites belonging to the Italian government and abroad, back in 2013. The hacker is a native of the town of Salo on the shore of Lake Garda, and claimed to be a member of the “Master Italian Hackers Team,” which had claimed responsibility for the attack at the time, on social media.

The suspect is identified only with his initials namely “Z.R”. However, the Italian police tracked him down after he opened up in social media about being part of the NASA 2013 website defacement attacks, and boasted about participating in the attacks.

“The young man turned out to be one of the leaders,” the Italian State Police said in a statement released on Monday, according to a ZDNet report.

Notable attacks by “Master Italian Hacker Team”

The hacker also admitted to repeatedly targeting the official websites of Italian schools, city councils, and regional governments, as well as the branches of the police and Italy’s state broadcaster Rai.

Of all the targeted attacks, the most notorious hack to date was the November 2013 attack on sites related to one of NASA’s research centers, which left eight official domains temporarily inaccessible.

All these hacks were not accompanied by any particular demands. Instead, the motive was to cause temporary inconvenience, expose vulnerabilities in the security system and above all, gain attention.

Attention gaining stunt: NASA website attack

After the 2013 attack on the NASA website, Italy’s anti-cybercrime police began monitoring the hacker group’s online activities. Apart from other statements made by the hacker on social media, bragging about his involvement in attacks, a search for his devices provided evidence of his involvement, which he has since admitted to police, according to a local Italian report.

Authorities of Italy’s Postal and Communications Police started investigating the Master Italian Hackers Team and its cyberattacks on Italian government sites in 2015. Later, in 2016, investigators said that they had identified hackers belonging to the group.

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