Last week, Spanish authorities arrested three people in connection to the hack on a local police union last year. Quickly, rumors spread that the cops might have gotten the people behind the mysterious and notorious hacktivist Phineas Fisher, who had claimed responsibility for the attack on the Catalan local police and was also behind the more famous breaches on the spyware vendors FinFisher, Hacking Team, and on the Turkish government.
Hours after the news of the arrests leaked, however, Phineas Fisher resurfaced online after weeks of silence, claiming they were alive and well. Now, a week later, the hacker agreed to answer questions in an exclusive interview with Motherboard, where Phineas Fisher spoke about their next move and the future of the political hacking movement they tried to spark.
First of all, the hacker repeated again that they are "still safe and free," and that they didn't get raided. Moreover, the hacker said they're not really part of a group, but "it's really just me."
The whole interview was conducted via encrypted chat. The hacker was using the same handle they have used with Motherboard since the attack on Hacking Team in the summer of 2015, with the same unique encryption fingerprint. This means that it's very likely that the same person that was communicating with me on Wednesday was the same person I talked to more than a year and a half ago.
The hacker said they had no idea who the arrested people were, but they were likely the owners of the open proxies the hacker used to attack the Catalan police union last year. That, the hacker speculated, might be why the authorities thought they were the culprits.
The arrests, Phineas Fisher said, are "unfortunate," but the hacker also said there was nothing more for he or she to do other than to come out to say they were still at large and say the arrested were innocent.
"Really it's police's fault, not mine, that they have no idea how to investigate computer crime," the hacker added.
"It feels good to fuck up the people that are fucking us up."
Phineas Fisher, who is a self-defined "anarchist revolutionary," explained that they had deleted their Reddit and Twitter accounts around two months ago because they were "a little uncomfortable with the attention."
"I don't trust leaders and important people and I'd rather stay an anonymous nobody myself," they added. "And I felt like the 'Phineas Fisher' name had gone on too long and grown too big."
That might sound ironic, given that last year the hacker themselves tried to inspire others to follow their example and hit political targets. Now, success and fame has apparently been too much. That's why, Phineas Fisher said, they are ready to "retire" the alias and "probably take a break from hacking for a while too, it's not so healthy."
Hacking, they said, has taken its toll since "you have a double life you have to hide from everyone around you," and that, they added, "causes some depression/stress."
Is Phineas Fisher dead then?
As for the person behind the nickname, they will keep hacking, the hacker said. They'll keep hacking for money, and for political reasons.
"I live from computer crime cause I don't have so much options for living with dignity within the system," Phineas Fisher said. "The 'political' hacking I don't really see as work or doing it for a cause. More for me it's just cathartic, it feels good to fuck up the people that are fucking us up."
On that note, Phineas Fisher had a warning for other surveillance tech companies such as FinFisher and Hacking Team. These companies, the hacker added, can realistically "expect to make a ton of money and ruin a bunch of lives but what do they care that's not their problem."
"And once in awhile, wake up to their dirty shit exposed on the internet ;)" the hacker wrote.
First, however, Phineas Fisher said he'd take a break and go to the beach and drink cocktails. As for the people that they inspired to join their cause and "hack back," Phineas Fisher had a simple, short message.
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Hacking Team Hacker Phineas Fisher Is Taking a Break Because of Stress