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"Deceptive Duo" suspects hit in FBI raid

The bureau issues search warrants against two former hackers it believes to be members of a group responsible for defacing U.S. government sites.

The FBI has issued search warrants against two former online vandals it believes to be the members of a "patriot" hacking group called the Deceptive Duo.

As first reported by CNET, agents raided the homes of two teenagers earlier this week. The FBI on Sunday seized equipment in Florida from The-Rev, a former member of the hacking group Sm0ked Crew, according to a friend of the Deceptive Duo hackers.

Separately, the Contra Costa county district attorney's office confirmed that agents acting on a warrant issued in the Deceptive Duo case confiscated computer equipment from Robert Lyttle, the previously convicted pro-Napster defacer, in California on Monday.

The California raid prompted a Wednesday juvenile parole hearing for Lyttle, who is now 18. Lyttle has been confined to his home as a result of the criminal hearing.

"He has been placed on a higher level of supervision," said a source familiar with the proceedings, who asked not to be identified. "He has to wear an ankle bracelet, which tells them where he is. If he walks away from the house, it sends a signal to the probation department."

The Deceptive Duo has defaced dozens of U.S. government and military sites with pro-American messages lambasting the poor security of the nation's critical systems. The hacked sites have included those of the Defense Department and the Sandia National Laboratories, which is associated with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

No charges have yet been filed against either suspect, said Chris Murray, a spokesman for the FBI's Washington Metropolitan Bureau. However, the search warrants and affidavit used in the case have been sealed and are not available for public viewing, he said. Because the Deceptive Duo hit government and military sites, the case is being administered from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan office of the FBI.

An FBI representative in San Francisco confirmed that the bureau had issued a search warrant on Monday. A spokesperson for the FBI office in Miami Beach, Florida, could not be reached.

Dodie Katague, deputy district attorney for California's Contra Costa county, confirmed that Lyttle had appeared in a probation hearing Wednesday to discuss how his probation status would be affected by the new charges.

"Now that he is an adult--he is 18--we are letting the Feds handle it," said Katague. "And he is going to be in a lot more trouble than before." Lyttle was convicted of defacing dozens, and perhaps hundreds, of Web sites with a pro-Napster message. He is on probation.

Kelly Hallissey, a Las Vegas resident who bills herself as an "online mom" to several hackers including the two suspects, said she argued with The-Rev and Pimpshiz--Lyttle's online monicker--to stop defacing, but they wouldn't.

"They knew that they were going to get caught," she said. Hallissey worried that the teenagers would be made an example under new laws passed as part of the U.S.A. Patriot Act and maintains that they truly thought they were helping the security cause.

"This is their part in helping after 9-11," Hallissey said. "A lot of kids they knew went into the service after 9-11. Their skills lie in hacking, however. It sounds corny, but they mean it and they believe it."

The Deceptive Duo's defacements mimicked a secret agent file. In the first hack in late April, the Duo wrote: "We are two U.S. Citizens that understand how sad our country's cybersecurity really is. The Deceptive Duo's continuous mission is to define the weaknesses that lie upon us. Our lives revolve around the use of electronic communication, we must protect our formation of controlling technology one way or another."

Many security experts have been critical of the tactics employed by the duo in the name of helping computer security.

"There are probably better ways to tell people that their security sucks," said Dragos Ruiu, an independent security consultant. "In one way, it's an excuse to play around, because they probably would have done it anyway."

Yet in a previous e-mail interview with CNET, the Deceptive Duo said they believed they had already helped the cause of U.S. security.

"There is quite an improvement in security," they wrote. "Because the systems we were once able to breach are no longer susceptible to attack...Not only are our targets more secure, but we strongly believe that witnesses to this entire ordeal will see that everything is a bit more realistic. This will force them to act on their own system security if so inclined."

Lyttle's attorney, San Francisco-based Omar Figaeroa, believed that the 18-year-old hacker will be released in the end.

"When all the facts are in, Robert will be exonerated, because he had no criminal intent," he said. "He was acting in good faith."