AOL probing whether teen hacker stole customer data

AOL is still investigating whether a teen hacker stole customer data from its systems, although the company thinks it's unlikely that he did.

AOL LLC is investigating the recent hacking of its systems by a New York teen to determine if he managed to obtain customer data. However, the Time Warner Inc. subsidiary thinks it's unlikely that customer data was compromised.

"This long-term hacker has repeatedly sought to access AOL systems," a spokeswoman wrote via e-mail on Friday. "Our investigation continues, but we believe that at no point was [he] able to access customer billing data."

For now, AOL isn't notifying any individual customers about the situation. "While [he] did seek to access accounts, we don't believe there was any data compromised that would require customer outreach," the spokeswoman wrote.

This is the first time AOL has issued an official comment about the arrest of 17-year old Mike Nieves, who faces four felony charges and a misdemeanor charge for allegedly breaking into AOL networks and databases at different points between late December and early April. On Thursday, a spokesman for the Manhattan District Attorney's office said it's too early to tell whether any data was compromised during the system intrusions.

The systems Nieves allegedly accessed contain customer billing records, addresses and credit card information, according to a complaint filed in Criminal Court of the City of New York. Nieves also infected AOL servers with a malicious program to transfer confidential data to his computer, the DA's office alleges.

Nieves managed to log into 49 AIM instant message accounts belonging to AOL customer support employees and attempted to break into a customer support system that has sensitive customer information, according to the complaint.

He also allegedly launched successful phishing attacks against AOL staffers, gaining access to over 60 accounts from AOL employees and subcontractors. The alleged acts cost AOL over US$500,000.

Apparently, Nieves was angry that the company canceled his AOL accounts and was trying to find a way to re-activate them by himself, according to an admission of guilt he reportedly made to investigators and which the complaint mentions.

Nieves was arraigned Monday and was scheduled for a procedural hearing Friday to determine the next step in the case. Nieves' attorney didn't return a call seeking comment.

The hacked systems are in AOL offices in Manhattan and in New Delhi, India. Nieves' four felony charges are: computer tampering in the first degree; criminal mischief in the second degree; computer trespass; and criminal possession of computer-related material.

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