A former hacker describes how he survives being banned from the Internet
Higinio Ochoa, who went by the code name "w0rmer" online, has been interested in hacking since childhood. His passion first turned political when the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in 2011.Wanting to expose the identities of police officers who covered their badges while brutalizing protesters with tear gas and night sticks, Ochoa decided to hack into police department websites and post officers' names and addresses online. Advertisement
"I grew up trusting that my government wouldn't do these things, and then they did," Ochoa told Reply All. "And here on American soil these people were being pepper sprayed and batoned."
Ochoa began hacking the cops, hooking up with a group of hackers who called themselves CabinCr3w and were loosely affiliated with the hacktivist group Anonymous.For Ochoa, breaking into police databases proved incredibly easy. "It would take less than an hour and a half for me to break into the site, and the hardest part was just waiting for the data to download," he said.
One day he went too far, however, hacking into an FBI criminal database that for some unknown reason had been linked to the website for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, which he had previously infiltrated. Tempted by the challenge, Ochoa replaced the database with what had by then become his trademark - a photo of a woman in a bikini with the words "PwNd by w0rmer & CabinCr3w - <3 u B*Tch's."
When Ochoa woke up one day to the loud banging of FBI agents at his door, he knew it was over. He spent 18 months in prison and was due to be released in September 2014 when a judge informed him that the terms of his parole had been modified:
If he so much as touched an Internet-connected device, he would go straight back to jail.Avoiding the Internet in 2015 would be a formidable challenge for anyone, let alone someone who makes their living as a computer programmer. Ochoa still works with computers, writing code from home, but his server is cut off from the world wide web. To get a code to his boss, he has to have it printed out at a local printing center and sent via snail mail to his office.Advertisement
Ordinary tasks like paying bills have become his wife Kylie's responsibility, and if Ochoa wants to watch Netflix, Kylie has to access the website and leave it running on "auto-play" so that he can continue watching without ever having to press "play."
"His wife has become like an Internet seeing-eye person," one Gimlet commentator noted.But Ochoa doesn't seem to mind. When asked how he is coping with his banishment from the web, Ochoa replied that it has made him a better husband and father.Advertisement
"My wife and son have taken the place of the Internet for me," he said.