In Brief

Super-hacker 'Guccifer' held and named as Marcel Lazar Lehel

It didn't take long to find him once he hacked into the email of Romania's spy chief, George Maior

guccifer.jpg

‘GUCCIFER’, the anonymous hacker who became a thorn in the side of the US establishment by leaking politicians' and Hollywood stars' sensitive private emails, is anonymous no longer. He has been arrested by Romanian police and named as Marcel Lazar Lehel. 

Lehel is a 42-year-old Romanian who worked as a cab driver before turning to cyber-crime. The mistake that got him caught was to hack into the email of his country's spy chief, George Maior.

As soon as it came out that Maior had been targeted, the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) said earlier this month that they were confident the hacker would be hunted down and caught.

Yesterday, they were as good as their word – suggesting to cyber-cynics that the SRI had a pretty good idea all along who the culprit was, not least because Lehel has been convicted before for similar behaviour.

Today he is accused of leaking his victims’ private correspondence in an effort to ruin their public image. A police statement says Lehel “accessed, repeatedly and without authorisation… email accounts belonging to public figures from Romania, with the purpose of gaining possession of confidential information found in their electronic mailboxes”.

Maior wasn't the only high-profile Romanian Lehel went after: the other was the MEP Corina Cretu whose email account, hacked by Guccifer last summer, revealed a hugely embarrassing correspondence between her and Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State.

Cretu sent Powell photos of herself, including one in a hot tub and another in a bikini, along with suggestive notes. In one, dated November 2011, she wrote: “I have loved you too much, too many years. YOU were my greatest love of my life...”

Powell, a married man, was forced to admit that he had exchanged "very personal" emails with Cretu, whom he had met ten years previously when she was a young diplomat working for the Romanian president. But he insisted her “love” for him was not reciprocated and they had never had an affair.

The Romanian connection is only the tip of the iceberg. Posing as Guccifer, Lehel targeted Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell and comic actor Steve Martin among many prominent Americans.

He also broke into the email account of George W Bush's daughter, Dorothy, finding paintings made by the ex-president, not to mention an awkward note from 'Dubya' in which he wrote that he was "thinking about [the] eulogy" for his father, who was unwell at the time, but is still with us.

The latest Guccifer escapade to come to light involved Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. As Charles Laurence reported for The Week earlier this month, the hacker was able to get into Fellowes’s BT internet account and find the script to the series finale six months before it was broadcast – but had the decency to keep it to himself rather than spoil the suspense for Downton fans. 

Softpedia reports that two years ago Lehel was sentenced to three years of supervised release for similar crimes. This time, he can expect a tougher sentence. It seems unlikely he’ll be among the Romanians seeking jobs in Britain now that visa controls are lifted – even if his skills, redirected, are just what many UK companies are looking for.

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