Blind hacker fulfils Sneakers movie role 17 years on

When a registered blind computer expert from Massachusetts pleaded guilty late last week to computer intrusion charges that could see him being sent to jail for 13 years, there were clear parallels between the actions of the 18 year old and the `Whistler' character in the Sneakers movie.
The irony of the situation is that Matthew Weigman, who pleaded guilty to two felony charges in a Dallas courtroom last week, was just one year old when actor David Strathairn played the Sneakers movie role of a blind hacker who could interpret audio frequencies without assistance.
Apparently known in phone phreaking circles as `Li'l Hacker,' Weigman was renowned for his in-depth knowledge of the US phone network, and his ability to use social engineering techniques to persuade phone company engineers and other staff to reveal confidential data.
The blind teenager has reportedly been chased since his 15th birthday for gaining unauthorised access to the US phone networks, although he admitted in a 2007 interview with Wired.com to being "interested" in phones since the age of eight.
In a plea deal with prosecutors, Weigman, who was born blind, admitted to range of offences, including conspiring with other phone phreaks to making hundreds of hoax calls to the police, who then sent armed SWAT teams bursting into the homes of their hacker enemies.
Interestingly, as part of his confession, Weigman confessed to eavesdropping on supervisory circuits operated by US Sprint, a process that allowed him to hear telephone customers giving out their credit card details to third-party companies.
According to the FBI, its agents started investigating Weigman after he staged a 2005 hostage hoax that sent police to the Colorado home of a US Transportation Security Administration officer whose daughter apparently refused the then 15-year-old's advances.
The FBI then offered to waive charges in return for Weigman becoming an agency informant, although officials reportedly called off the deal when they discovered the scale of the self-confessed phone phreaker's activities.
Weigman's latest troubles started when he turned 18 last April and the FBI started assembling a court case against him.
Central to the felony charges was an allegation that he used the credentials of a Texas woman to turn on phone service of an apartment he shared with his mother and the rest of the family.
When the FBI investigator turned off the phone service, Weigman turned it back on again, and started harassing phone calls to the FBI agent, whose details he extracted from the phone company using social engineering techniques.
He then spoofed caller ID data to persuade the FBI agent that his incoming calls were coming from other parties.
Weigman - who investigators say has admitted he could not stop phone phreaking for longer than three days - will be sentenced on April 24.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, he can withdraw his guilty plea if the judge in his case gives him more than 13 years in prison.

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