On Friday, police investigating the Web site break-ins confirmed they had searched the Pleasant Hill, Calif., home of a 17-year-old high school student and confiscated computer equipment last month.
Police said the raid came on a tip from the FBI, which fingered the suspected mastermind of a Web graffiti campaign protesting a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Napster by the record industry in June. A court-ordered shutdown of the popular song-swapping service is on appeal.
"Music is art, an extension of ourselves," read one August Web defacement. "Major-label record companies do not sell art; they sell 50 cents of plastic at $15 because they see music as an industry they can control. Maybe 5 percent of your $15 will end up going to the artist."
In an interview, the teenager admitted that what he did was "probably wrong," but he seemed proud of the defacements.
"My defacements are protests," he said. "I want people to think about the Napster case positively, not negatively."
The Contra Costa County district attorney's office had only been investigating for a few weeks before it searched the teenager's home under a warrant, Deputy District Attorney Dodie Katague said Friday.
"The FBI came to us and said, 'We have this information. Do you want to do something with it?'" he said, adding that the district attorney's office has not decided whether to press charges. Katague said the defacements will most likely be the more minor of the two sets of charges that his office could file.
"We are investigating whether he bought some of the equipment we found with others' credit card numbers," he said.
The state attorneys are waiting for the FBI to complete forensics on the computer equipment seized from the suspect's home. The equipment amounted to three computers, two Palm III devices, a DVD player, and several boxes of computer-related equipment, according to the teenager.
Although the teenager has admitted to almost 200 defacements, many of those are foreign Web sites outside the jurisdiction of the FBI.
The teenager used a vulnerability that only recently came to light to compromise Web servers. Scanning up to 22,000 Web sites every hour, he located those susceptible to the exploit and used a program to deface several Web sites at a time. Under the "Pimpshiz" moniker, the teenager admits to defacing a dozen or so military sites as well.
Security site and defacement tracker Attrition.org has credited "Pimpshiz" with 20 mass defacements, each consisting of the same message.
One thing the investigation won't get to the bottom of is the meaning of the teenager's handle.
"When I first started chatting on (America Online about four years ago), my friend gave the name to me. I've been using it ever since," the teenager said. "I don't know what it means."
The teenager is looking for legal representation.