David Helkowski stood waiting outside a restaurant in Towson, Maryland, fresh from a visit to the unemployment office. Recently let go from his computer consulting job after engaging in some “freelance hacking” of a client’s network, Helkowski was still insistent on one point: his hack, designed to draw attention to security flaws, had been a noble act.
The FBI had a slightly different take on what happened, raiding Helkowski’s home and seizing his gear. Helkowski described the event on reddit in a thread he titled, “IamA Hacker who was Raided by the FBI and Secret Service AMAA!” Recently Ars sat down with him, hoping to get a better understanding of how this whitehat entered a world of gray. Helkowski was willing to tell practically everything—even in the middle of an ongoing investigation.
Until recently, Helkowski worked for The Canton Group, a Baltimore-based computer consulting firm serving, among other clients, the University of Maryland. Helkowski’s job title at The Canton Group was “team lead of open source solutions,” but he began to shift his concerns toward security after identifying problems on a University of Maryland server.