The hacker who broke into Microsoft's computers and publicly bragged about it says it was personal problems -- not unrequited love -- that led him to attack the computer giant.
"Some bad things have been happening in my life, and I just figured I'd go on the Internet and escape reality and see how much trouble I can get into," the hacker, who gave his age as "under 16," said Wednesday in an interview with MSNBC, hours after he vandalized four more government Web sites.
The hacker, who uses the handle "flipz," on Tuesday became the first person known to have defaced one of Microsoft's computers after he left electronic graffiti on the company's Conference Management Server site. He also is responsible for vandalizing at least 10 government Web sites since October 20.
Sources at the company said the hacked machines were not part of the corporate network, but rather part of a "direct-tap network" used by developers and partners for testing purposes. Though efforts are made to keep them secure, these computers are connected directly to the Internet, and are one step removed from Microsoft's corporate network, the sources said. (MSNBC is a joint-partnership between Microsoft and NBC News.)
In a phone interview Wednesday, flipz confirmed his identity by providing details of a previously unreported intrusion into the Web site of a leading Internet search engine. His account was subsequently confirmed by officials at the company on the condition that the site not be identified.
Attrition.org, a reliable computer security site that maintains an archive of hacked Web sites, also confirmed that flipz reported he had vandalized the site, but it was not documented because the hacked site was removed before evidence could be gathered.
Flipz took issue with the MSNBC's portrayal of him as a "lovesick hacker" in a story Tuesday reporting the Microsoft break-in, a description based on what appeared to be love notes for another hacker known as "f0bic" that he left on some of the sites he vandalized.
"Flipz was here and f0bic, your seksi (sic) voice helped me through the night," read one note left on the Microsoft Web page, which concluded with a threat against CEO Bill Gates.
"That was just a bit from 'Austin Powers.' We don't have a sexy relationship or anything. He's just like my friend," flipz said, adding that f0bic, a member of the apparently defunct hacking group Spl0it, had nothing to do with his intrusions. The hacker was vague on many specifics about his life and the reasons for the attacks. He would only say he lived on the West Coast. He declined to give his age except to say he is "under 16," and he refused to provide specifics of how he was able to gain entry into the NT servers, though he said he had been trained as an NT operator.
He blamed unspecified personal problems for the spate of intrusions, adding that staying up all night hacking was "like a drug" that allows him to forget about life's demons.
"You just forget everything. Everything. You can't remember your name and s-. Everything changes." He said his parents were not concerned about his nocturnal activities, noting that they had told him, "Get good grades, don't drop out of school and we'll be happy." As he has indicated in messages left on several of the hacked sites, flipz said he expected to be arrested as a result of his hacking spree.
"I was expecting to get raided yesterday, but nothing happened so I don't know. ... I'm a minor so I'm not really worried about that," he said.
The FBI declined to say whether flipz was under investigation, but a spokesman for the White Sands Missile Range said the Army Criminal Investigation Command was looking into the attacks on the service's computers.
The young hacker continued his assault on federal sites Tuesday night, altering the two Department of Energy sites, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the Office of Procurement and Assistance Management; the Navy Coastal Systems Center and Anderson Air Force Base, according to attrition.org.
In the past week, he also has hacked the pages of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, the White Sands Missile Range, the U.S. Army Dental Care System, the Navy Management System Support Office, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
MSNBC technology writer Bob Sullivan contributed to this report.